Chennai: In a controversial move to curb free speech, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has banned a discussion forum of students after an anonymous complaint that the group tried to spread “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The complaint, received by ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), alleged that Ambedkar Periyar Student Circle (APSC) was mobilizing SC/ST students to question government policies on the use of Hindi and the ban on cow slaughter.
The complainant had enclosed one of APSC's pamphlets reproducing a speech which criticised the Modi government and its policies.
The decision was taken after Prisca Mathew, under secretary to the Ministry of HRD, wrote to the IIT director on the issue.
In the letter, dated May 15, Prisca wrote, “I am directed to forward herewith a copy of anonymous letter alleging serious complaints received from students, IIT-Madras along with pamphlet issued by Ambedkar-Periyar study circle on the above mentioned subject and to request that comments of the institute may please be sent to this ministry at an early date."
Students said that they received a mail from the Dean of Students, Sivakumar M. Srinivasan on May 22, informing them that the APSC was being derecognised for “misuse of privileges.”
Mr. Srinivasan, when contacted, said that the group did not follow the code of conduct for student bodies that clearly states that such activities should have the Dean's approval.
Members of APSC, however, pointed out that the decision by the IIT is undemocratic as they were denied a hearing. The group questioned how an anonymous letter by a right-wing group could represent the majority opinion of students of the prestigious institute.
A member of the APSC said: “We were not asked any explanation before this mail came. It was only later that we met the Dean, who asked us for an assurance that we will not involve in such activities again.”
The members wrote a detailed response to the Director Dr. Bhaskar Ramamurthi on Thursday evening, “Our organisation is engaged in propagating Ambedkar and Periyar thoughts, in helping depressed castes and the caste Hindus to realise the evil of caste-based discrimination taking place in modern India and expose the ideology functioning behind such discrimination.”
Created on April 14, 2014, APSC is a group of politically-inclined students from IIT-Madras who work to promote the ideology and writings of B R Ambedkar and Periyar.
The pamphlet that was forwarded by MHRD as the proof of group's activities was the copy of a speech by a Dravidian University academic R Vivekandanda Gopal on the "Contemporary relevance of Dr Ambedkar".
In the event organised by APSC on the campus, Gopal had criticised the Modi regime for "pro-corporate" policies such as the Land Acquisition Bill and insurance and labour reforms.
Not against student's freedom of expression: IIT Madras
We are not against students' expression of freedom, but expect them to adhere to certain guidelines, IIT Madras said on Friday after taking action against a student's group for distributing controversial pamphlets that could create an atmosphere of hate.
In a statement issued by its spokesperson, the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) said that there were several student's organizations on the campus.
"Some of these organizations represent the entire student body, elected and run by the students themselves.
"Some of the student groups are formed based on the interests of students. Student groups desiring to use the institute's resources are required to be recognized and they are to follow guidelines prescribed by the Board of Students which consists of all the elected student representatives," it said.
The statement was issued after reports said that the institute had taken action against Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) - a students' study group - over an anonymous complaint to the centre saying that that it was trying to "create hatred atmosphere" among students by distributing "controversial pamphlets and posters" on the campus.
The statement said that while IIT Madras does not curtail freedom of expression of the students, it is expected that student groups adhere to these guidelines while conducting their activities.
"As per the guidelines in force, the student bodies are not allowed to use the institute's name (IIT Madras) or any of its official entities in any capacity to publicize their activities or garner support, without official approval," it said.
It also said that this group has violated these guidelines while conducting their meeting.
"Normally, violation of these guidelines leads to temporary derecognition pending their presenting their stand to the board of students. In the present case also, the same procedure is being followed," the statement said. (IANS)