The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had scrapped the BA course in Social Sciences for the Hyderabad campus and also labelled the campus as non-residential. The students of the institute had been protesting against this tyrannical rule of the administration and taken a step further and resorted to a hunger strike. After ten whole days of being on strike, TISS students have officially and successfully called off the protest as the administration has conceded to some of their demands.
Following the boycotting of all classes and a humiliating meeting with the Internal Management Committee, the students of TISS Hyderabad resorted to an indefinite hunger strike, with their main demand being that the Director, Registrar, and Deputy Registrar of the Mumbai administration must come and meet them in Hyderabad.
On the first day of the hunger strike (December 17 2018), no official from TISS Mumbai had come to visit the protesting student body in Hyderabad, and hence it continued to the second day where four more students joined in on the hunger strike. The number of students sitting for the hunger strike was to increase every day until the Mumbai administration came to the Hyderabad campus.
The first day of the hunger strike also saw the presence of several social activists at the campus, all of whom stood firmly in solidarity with the student body. Radhika Vemula, Rohith Vemula’s mother, sat with the students from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Other eminent scholars such as Dr. Kalpana Kannabiran and Professor Laxminarayan also extended their support for the cause. Volunteers from various other organisations and educational institutions were also present on the campus and most of them addressed the student body as well.
The Deputy Director and the Internal Management Committee of the Hyderabad campus met the students at 5:00 p.m. on the said day, and informed the general body that a statement has been drafted which would be sent to the Mumbai administration on behalf of the teachers’ collective of the Hyderabad campus. The statement included that they stood with the students in their demands of reinstating the BA in Social Sciences course in Hyderabad 2020 onwards, and in revoking of the non-residential status recently given to this campus.
Dr. Vindhya, chairperson of the school of Women’s Studies and a member of the Internal Management Committee mentioned, “Your demands are our demands now, these demands are being sent on behalf on entire TISS Hyderabad.”
However, the other seven demands of the charter submitted by the Student Action Committee to the management were not addressed in either their dialogue with the general body or in the appeal being sent to TISS, Mumbai. This continues to problematize things as the problems being faced by the GoI-PMS students were one of the major issues included in the charter of demands which was not taken up by the Hyderabad management. The only response that was received from the Mumbai administration was unsatisfactory and dismissive in nature.
Therefore, on the ninth day of the protest, an intensified hunger strike was resorted to alongside sloganeering. The students participated in various cultural event surrounding the theme of dissent in order to further strengthen the spirit of the movement.
On December 18 2018, a statement was released by the Director stating that the BA programme will be reinstated 2020-2021 onwards and the institute will continue to play its role in deciding hostel services for existing and upcoming batches. The statement also declared the formation of an Empowered Committee (comprising 3 members of faculty of the Hyderabad campus and 6 from the Mumbai campus) to look into the issues being faced by the Hyderabad campus on a whole.
However, the general body was not satisfied because of the lack of an official, signed document and the negligence of the GoI-PMS issues in the statement.
On December 19 2018, as the hunger strike entered its third day, a 12-member delegation from the Student Action Committee met three members of the Empowered Committee to deliberate on the demands, especially the issues concerning the GoI-PMS students.
After a meeting which lasted for over five hours, the Empowered Committee signed on a document prepared by the delegation, agreeing to take all the demands from the integrated demand charter forward and work towards finding effective solutions.
Dissatisfied with the lack of consideration on the part of the Director, the SAC refused to call off the strike.
On the fourth day of the hunger strike, after five students were hospitalised due to low blood pressure, a 4-point document regarding the demand charter was signed by the Director, Dr. Shalini Bharat. Further promises were also made to look into all the issues regarding the GoI-PMS students and to ensure that no student has to leave the college due to financial constraints.
The SAC will not be dissolved until all the demands are met, which is expected to be done through regular meetings with the Empowered Committee in order to remain informed about the progress. Following this turn of events, the protest was called off officially on December 20 2018, by the entire general body.