Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle Ban in IIT Madras – The Real Story


We, Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle (APSC), an independent student body of IIT Madras (IITM) has been derecognized by the Dean of Students (DoS), on 22-05-2015 stating that we have misused the privileges given by IITM. It was later informed that the move is based on a letter from MHRD undersigned by the Under Secretary to the government of India.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

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 labour 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 replacing the name board of faculties and laboratories with Sanskritized Hindi. We celebrated 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 Dean of Students (DoS) Dr.M.S.Sivakumar directed us to change the 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. APSC took a firm decision to stick with the same title. We also pointed out that activities of right wing groups under the banner of Vivekananda Study Circle. But the Dean of Students said that they have been using the name (Vivekananda) for many years and he refused to the change of 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 polarising students. We clearly explained to the Dean, the motto of the study circle and relevance of Ambedkar and Periyar’s name.

Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle

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 masses. The pamphlet contents were referred from leading magazines, newspapers and writings of Ambedkar (the copy of posters and phamphlets 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 contorversial posters and phamplets 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 derecogonise APSC. (For the reference the MHRD letter and complaint letter are attached with the mail)

Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle

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 that we have not misuse any privileges given by the institute. So far our activities are engaging healthy discussions on socio-economic issues on scientific basis to promote scientific temper among 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 (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 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 masses, who are the taxpayers. Instead, 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 masses for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.

Voltaire told “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 in academic fraternity to debate on matters that affect the common masses which feed us

Mail which we sent to Dean and Director of IITM to explain our stand on recent issue

Sir,

We the students of Ambedkar-Periyar Study circle are writing you regarding our stand on the recent email that we received from the Dean of Students, de-recognized our students’ organization.

The mail from Dean of Students dated on 22/05/2015 says “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.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

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. Since DoS chaired this position, two times he warned us to change the name “Ambedkar-Periyar” stating that it is polarizing the student. This shows the aversion of DoS towards the the name “Ambedkar-Periyar.”

The Dean’s office has provided us with a copy of a letter from the MHRD dated 21/05/2015with the ref no. F. No. 5-3/2014-TS-I. The letter stated that the MHRD has received serious complaints regarding the activities of our study circle through anonymous letter. A copy of one such letter was provided. We wish to respond to the allegations in the complainant’s letter.

Ambedkar - Periyar Study Circle

1. It has been alleged that we have spread hatred against the Modi government and a copy of our pamphlet on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti was enclosed. We do not see any merit in such a statement. We stand by our opinions. Yes, we were very critical of the government. However, we do not understand how dissent and criticism of the government’s policy is akin to “spreading hatred”. If any person professing an anti-establishment view is accused of engaging in “controversial” activities and all dissent is stifled, wouldn’t that be a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely express ourselves? We feel that a vibrant and proactive civil society is an integral part of a healthy democracy. IITM itself have had many meetings that discussed the policies and legislation’s of the current and previous elected governments. Among them the reservation policy is the one which has not been still implemented in IITM campus. Here we want to raise a rational question on IITM’s stand on the reservation policy which is still an alive Government policy even in Modi Government since Independence. When OBC reservation was announced by then Govt., whether anti-reservation student group of IITM simply sat without commending because that its ‘government’s policy’ or it fought against it on the streets of Chennai with its tooth and nail to stop that move? What was the action taken by IITM towards those who fought on streets against the Govt. Policy on Reservation? Rather, the IITM took part in negotiating a raise of 24% to safeguard the vested interested of those anti-reservation body functioning in IITM?

2. We have been accused of spreading hatred between SC-ST and the Hindus and vitiating the atmosphere of the institute. We are surprised and slightly amused. Are SC, ST not part of the so called ‘Hindus’? How MHRD and IITM is perceiving such a venomous anonymous mail with full of hatred towards the SC, ST and Ambedkar? Are we the one who polarise the students or they are the one who think IITM is their own base to propagate against the interest of SC, ST, OBC who are the majority in our Society? Rather our organization is engaged in propagating Ambedkar and Periyar thoughts, in helping depressed castes and the caste Hindus to realize the evilness of caste based discrimination taking place in modern India and expose the ideology functioning behind such discrimination. When we talk about the hierarchical caste structure existing in Indian Society, inevitably we end up in talking about the present pathetic condition of peasants and labours. There are a number of sociological studies that will bear us out when we say that caste based discrimination is still very strong in our society, that caste based associations can leave some with privileges that add up throughout their lives while those that are excluded face powerful social barriers to their attempts to improve their social and economic status. We have only been discussing these issues with an aim to make a common platform for all students inspite of their caste and creed so as to dismantle the evilness of caste barriers. However, even in 2015, our activities are seen to be too radical by the religious right. If the religious right has the right to be offended, then don’t the oppressed Dalits and Bahujans who still face powerful prejudices have a right to be offended with the state of affairs? Our pamphlets do not have any material that would surprise a sociological or political scientist. Yet, the institute has taken these complaints seriously and has chosen to derecognise our organisation. Any higher education institute should be a platform where critical thinking and dissent ought to be encouraged. Where brave new thoughts are nurtured. However, the “dangerous” ideas that we have been accused of spreading are at least a few decades old, if not a few centuries.

3. The complainant has taken exception to one of our meetings which dealt with an MHRD circular regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian mess halls. We do not understand how anybody’s sentiments could have been hurt when the entire discussion was about the right of every individual to decide what they can eat. This meeting could be seen as trivial when compared to the meetings on much larger issues. However, the complaint against this meeting indicates how unsparing the dominant establishment has become when it comes to stifling dissent. If such a trivial freedom such as being able to eat meat in the mess halls is seen as dangerous, then the continued existence of our study group becomes all the more important.

4. Another issue that the complainant has taken exception to is a meeting that discussed language politics and the primacy given to Sanskrit and Hindi in the disbursement of central funds. We had a Linguist from HSS, IITM and a linguistic scholar from Pondicherry University who led the discussion. As rationalists, we feel that though Sanskrit has a valued place as part of culture and history of certain sections of our society, it is also an instrument of spreading a Brahminical, dominant narrative. Imposition of Sanskrit in school has less to do with teaching a language and more to do with the ideology behind teaching the language. We stand by our opinions and wish to assert our rights to profess our opinions freely.

5. Finally, we have been accused of getting funds from the outside organization. This allegation is completely baseless and absurd. So far for all the programs the financial support had been taken from the study circle members’ own pockets and collected in paisas from IITM students at their doorsteps which was witnessed even by those who wrote the above said ‘anonymous pettition’. Why we had to collect in paisas from the students to conduct our events through a platform like APSC is because IITM rejected many of our moves to bring personalities like Prof. Chaman Lal through EML. Since its birth, EML is been the monopoly of religious right wing to propagate their metaphysical idealist ideology and is a platform for corporate think tanks in the scientific and academic fraternity. When the taxpayers money is been spend for propogating anti-people, anti-rational agenda, pro –people, rational groups like APSC have to collect money from the students to conduct its events. We are maintaining proper account for all our expenditures.

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 are the taxpayers. Rather, the move from DoS, IITM says there is no space for such opinions and discussions. We would also like to know what exactly constitutes the “misuse of privileges” and how the specific issues raised in the complainant’s letter could be deemed controversial? The right of function of any independent student body is not the ‘privilege’ given by the authority, rather it’s the democratic right of student themselves.

We strongly believe that what we stated in our pamphlets and content of our discussion is correct and 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.

Dean of students mail to us

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Dean Students” <dost@iitm.ac.in>
Date: 22 May 2015 16:07
Subject: Your study circle is now de-recognized because of violation of code of conduct

This is to inform you 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.
You are welcome to come and explain your stand and actions.

Thanks,

anbudan,
Siva

SIVAKUMAR M. SRINIVASAN

“on a mission to nurture the students of today to be change leaders of tomorrow”

PROFESSOR             |   DEAN (STUDENTS)  |  Coordinator
Dept. of App. Mech.   |   044 2257 8050            |  Structures Panel, AR&DB
(91) 044 2257 4061   |   9444008050                |   9445284085
mssiva@iitm.ac.in      |   dost@iitm.ac.in

http://www.vinavu.com/2015/05/30/comprehensive-report-from-apsc-iit-madras/

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