Tata Institute of Social Sciences has been a university space since 1936 to nurture young minds in the field of social sciences. A place made for challenging societal norms, its rich history has contributed to the nation in several ways. Since its inception, TISS has had a focus on field action including responding to crises such as the Partition of India, the Bhopal disaster and the Uttarakhand floods.
However, TISS in the past two years has had a different story to tell. It has several campuses across the country, including Hyderabad, Guwahati and Tuljapur, in addition to the Mumbai campus. For anyone who’s paying attention over the years, resentment has brewed among the students in various campuses against the tyranny of the Mumbai administration.
Recently, the administration made two important decisions which would have long lasting impact on the student population of Hyderabad Campus: firstly, they announced the deferment of BA Social Sciences Programme for 2019; and secondly, that the conversion to non-residential status of the TISS Hyderabad campus would happen from the next academic year.
According to the press release by the protesting students, “The student community has been protesting since December 10, 2018 against the arbitrary decisions of the TISS administration. Even after three days of agitation and insistence from the student body, the Deputy Director refused to address the general body. However, a meeting was convened between the members of the TISS, Hyderabad Management Committee and the student representatives on 13th December, 2018 after a round of negotiations. Throughout the meeting the students were interrupted and silenced, their legitimacy to raise the issues questioned and the collective demands of the student body was never addressed and dismissed.”
It is worrying how dispensable good social sciences education has become in India, especially under the current regime. Problems ranging from reduced funding to pulling back scholarships for GoI-PMS students have been plaguing liberal arts colleges in India.
TISS is a premier institute, one of the first of its kind in the country, and the student body prides itself on its diversity. To see it be deprived and degrade in front of our very own eyes is truly a travesty.
When I joined TISS Hyderabad as a fresh faced undergraduate in 2016, TISS was a small but tight community where students from diverse backgrounds came together to not only be educated by books but also educate each other and share a wide array of opinions that transcended economic, social, educational, and ideological backgrounds. Last year, when the student body protested the pulling back the scholarships for GoI-PMS students, the administration took its own time to respond but it never belittled those who stood up for what is right.
This time round, the decisions directly affected a large portion of the student body and yet they were not consulted or forewarned. When questions were raised, fingers were pointed back at the students’ reasons and legitimacies. When authority figures derail from the discourse and choose to pick on those participating in dissent, it is indicative of complete apathy to the genuine fears of students.
According to a statement released by the Deputy Director of the Hyderabad Campus, a warning was issued to the protesting students. It stated, “This statement is issued considering the kind of misinformation and undue propaganda by a section of student community of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Hyderabad off-campus…..The administration has taken a serious note of the students’ disrupting the administrative and academic functioning and locking down the campus building, which is on a hired basis in a government premises.”
TISS has never been a profit making venture – it was set up to educate the next wave of leaders, and never has the need been more urgent than now. This is not a problem just for the current students of the BA Programme or just aspiring students – it is a problem for India’s entire intelligentsia and academic community.