Skip to main content

Will opinions put forth by right-wing groups alone be allowed on IIT-Madras campus?

Counterview Desk
Reproduced below is the abridged version of statement issued by the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), which was barred from continuing its activities on the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras:
We, the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), an independent student body of IIT Madras (IITM) have been derecognised by the Dean of Students (DoS), on May 22, 2015, who stated that we have misused the privileges given by IITM.
We were later informed that this move is based on a letter from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle was created as an independent student body on April 14, 2014 by a group of students from IITM to promote Ambedkar-Periyar thoughts and to initiate debates on socio-economic, political and cultural [issues] which affect the common mass within the academic fraternity… IITM has a long history of being a platform for right-wing groups alone to propagate their own ideology and train young minds for their intellectual wings through the Vivekananda Study Circle, RSS shakha, etc…
In the past one year, we organised hall meets, movie screenings and pamphlet distribution among students and ignited debates on issues like: agriculture under threat, Coal bed Methane, GM crops and their impact on agriculture, the Industrial Disputes Act amendment, language politics in India – past and present- based on the Sanskrit week celebrations, the MHRD’s overt attempt to have a separate vegetarian mess halls in IITs and IIMs, and the IITM administration’s move in replacing the name board of the faculties and laboratories with Sanskritised Hindi. We celebrated the birthdays of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and organised talks on understanding Bhagat Singh and the contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar.
Through the platform, we created a space for the students of IITM to discuss and debate issues directly affecting peasants, workers and the common masses. The APSC continuously faced threats from right-wing groups inside IITM. Even the administration tried to curtail our activities. In June 2014, the Dean of Students, Dr.M.S.Sivakumar directed us to change our name, stating that the names ‘Ambedkar and Periyar’ are politically motivated and thus the study circle should be renamed with some apolitical titles without any personality’s name.
The APSC decided to stick with the same name. We also pointed to the activities of right wing groups under the banner of the Vivekananda Study Circle, but the Dean of Students (DoS) said they have been using this name for many years. For a second time, in September 2014, he sent a mail for the same reason stating that the name is polarising the students. We clearly explained to him the motto of the study circle and the relevance of Ambedkar and Periyar’s names.
In this scenario, the APSC celebrated Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and its own first anniversary in April 2015 by organising a talk on the “contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar”. Pamphlets were issued on how communalism and corporatism are two sides of a single coin which is tossed by the present government against the common people. The pamphlet’s contents were drawn from leading magazines, newspapers, and the writings of Ambedkar.
After this event, on May 22, we received mail from the DoS stating that “because of the misuse of the privileges” given to your study circle as an independent student body, your student body “is de-recognised by the institute.” However, his mail did not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC.
When we met the DoS, he gave us a letter from the MHRD with the subject matter --
“Distribution of controversial posters and pamphlets in the campus and creating hatred atmosphere [sic] among the students by one of the student group [sic] namely Ambedkar Periyar” -- and which forwarded a copy of the complaint sent anonymously by [right-wing] in IIT.
The complaint letter – as mentioned by the MHRD official – states that the “APSC is trying to de-align the ST, SC students and trying to make them to protest against MHRD and Central government and trying to create hatred against honorable prime minister and Hindus”. Based on this complaint and the MHRD letter, the Dean of Students charged the APSC with misusing the privileges given them and derecognised APSC. We resent the fact that the DoS has derecognised our study circle unilaterally without giving us a fair hearing and an opportunity to represent ourselves. In our face-to-face interaction with the Dean of Students, we have been told that our study circle engages in “controversial activities” and violated the code of conduct of independent student bodies. We are clear on the stand that we have not misused any privileges given by the institute. So far, our activities have involved healthy discussion on socio-economic issues on a scientific basis to promote the scientific temper among the students, which is allowed by the Indian Constitution. We have not been given a satisfactory definition of what entails “controversial”.
Further, we were asked to give assurances that we shall desist from such activities in the future before the Dean can allow us to restart our activities. We have also been asked to route all our activities through the Dean’s office rather than the usual practice of routing all our discussions, plan of activities and pamphlets through our faculty adviser.
This excessive scrutiny is unprecedented and does not apply to any other students’ organisation. This clearly shows that only opinions put forth by the right-wing groups will get consent to see the light of the day, while the voices and opinion of democratic students like us will be curtailed hereafter.
Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kickstart a discussion within the campus among the academic fraternity. The issues that we discuss are very important and define the way we live our lives. IITM is a publicly funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should contribute to the upliftment of the common masses, who are the taxpayers. Rather, the move from DoS, IITM says there is no space for such opinions and discussions.
We strongly believe that what we stated in our pamphlets and in the content of our discussions is correct as per the Constitution. Therefore, action against the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by the DoS, IITM is undemocratic and unilateral and against the interest of the common mass for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.
Voltaire said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” We need a democratic space within the academic fraternity to debate matters that affect the common mass.

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w