These are two press releases from the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle – An initiative by IITM students. The first one was in protest against the ban on the APSC, and the second one dated 8 June 2015 – APSC Press Release 8.6.15 – explains the position of the students’ organisation after the ban was lifted. It argues that it is important that the controversy about the ban and the subsequent lifting of the ban not be allowed to obscure the fundamental reason for the ban which remains as urgent as ever – the drastically shrinking space for critique under the Modi government and Hindutva forces.
Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle was created as an independent student body on 14th April 2014, by a group of students from IITM to promote Ambedkar – Periyar thoughts and to initiate debates on socio-economic-political and cultural impacts which affects common mass within academic fraternity. The student of IITM has a dictum of using APSC as a platform for the above mentioned issues. As 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 Vivekananda Study Circle, RSS Shakha, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Vande Matram, Dhurva etc… With this motto, in the past one year, we organized Hall meets, Movie Screening and pamphlet distribution among students and ignited debates on issues like: Agriculture under threat – Coal bed Methane project, GM Crops – Impact on Agriculture, Factory disputes Act 1947 (Amendment) and creating devastating effect on the labor conditions, Language Politics in India: past and present based on Sanskrit week celebrations, MHRD’s overt attempt to have separate vegetarian mess halls in IITs and IIMs and IITM administration’s move in replacing the name board of the faculties and laboratories with Sanskritized Hindi. We celebrated the birthdays of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and organized talks on ‘Understanding Bhagat Singh’ and Contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar’. (For more information check our facebook page -Ambedkar periyar study circle IITmadras) Though the platform created a space for the students of IITM to discuss and debate on issues directly affecting the peasants, labours and the common mass, APSC continuously faced threats from rightwing groups inside IITM. Even the administration tried to curtail the activities of APSC, in June 2014, the DoS Dr.M.S.Sivakumar directed us to change 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 personolity’s name.
APSC took stubborn decision to stick with the same title. We also indicated, the activities of right wing groups under the banner of Vivekananda Study Circle, but the Dean of Students said they have been using the name (Vivekananda) for many years and he denied to change the name of “Vivekananda study circle”. For a second time in September 2014, he sent a mail for the same reason, through MITR (the general counseling unit for students run by IITM admin) rather than from Dean’s office stating that the name is polarizing the students. We clearly explained the Dean, the motto of the study circle and relevance of Ambedkar and Periyar’s name. In this scenario, APSC celebrated Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and its first anniversary in April 2015 by organizing a talk on “contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar”. Pamphlets were issued, on the basis of how communalism and corporatism are being the two sides of a single coin which is tossed by the present government against the common mass. The pamphlet contents were referred from leading magazines, newspapers and writings of Ambedkar (the copy of posters and pamphlets are attached) After this event, the above mentioned mail from Dean came on 22nd may 2015. (The copy of mail from dean is attached), it particularly states that “because of the misuse of the privileges” given to your study circle (Ambedkar-Periyar study circle) as an independent student body, your student body is de-recognized by the institute. However it does not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC. Based on the email, when we met Dean Students he gave a letter from MHRD with a subject matter “Distribution of controversial posters and pamphlets in the campus and creating hatred atmosphere among the students by one of the student group namely Ambedkar Periyar” and forwarded a copy of the complaint sent by the RSS students in IIT.
The anonymous complaint letter – as mentioned by the Under Secretary himself states that “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 MHRD letter, the Dean of students charge APSC that it misuses the privileges given by them and derecognize APSC. (For the reference the MHRD letter and complaint letter are attached.
The anonymous letter was sent on 29th April 2015, despite of its busy schedule? MHRD has taken this issue seriously and replied by 15th may 2015 itself. Previously IITM students have raised many important issues like Fee hike in IITs, Increase of fellowship to research scholars etc to MHRD. But it never responded to any of the above mentioned grievances. The fast track response to this particular issue shows its vested interest in protecting hindutva ideology and curbing democratic voices. We resent the fact that the Dean has de-recognized 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 misuse any privileges given by the institute. So far our activities are engaged with the healthy discussion on socio-economic issues on scientific basis to promote the scientific temper among the student 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 (Students) 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’ organization. Vis-à-vis this move of DoS clearly shows, only opinions put forth by the right wing group will get the consent to see the light of the day, while the voices and opinion of the democratic students like us will be curtailed hereafter. Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kick start 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 public funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should abide for the upliftment of the common mass, who is 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 content of our discussion is correct as per the Constitution. Therefore, action against the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by the DoS, IITM is undemocratic and unilateral against the interest of common mass for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.
G. Ramesh, The Co-coordinator Ambedkar Peryiar Study Circle, IIT Madras, Chennai – 600 036.
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