The move to derecognise the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), a student association in IIT Madras, for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday triggered a heated political debate between the government and the Opposition. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed the move and HRD Minister Smriti Irani hit back after NUSI members protested in front of her residence in New Delhi.
The APSC was derecognised by the management following an anonymous complaint to the Ministry of Human Resource Development that it has been criticising the Prime Minister and his policies, besides raising caste issues.
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The student body was banned by the dean of students, Sivakumar M Srinivasan, on May 24 following a letter from the ministry, inquiring about the complaints.
One of the APSC members said the students’ body has been taking stands against caste discrimination, Hindi imposition and beef ban.
“Our administration is already filled with regressive forces supporting superstitions and events against theory of evolution within the campus. The APSC brought out pamphlets against the attempt to spread such lies in institute.
Dean of students told us that Brahmanical rituals and caste system cannot be criticised as it hurts the sentiments of caste Hindus. He went on to say that even scientific research if it hurts the sentiments of a huge chunk of people should not be pursued and published,” he said.
IIT Madras issued a statement clarifying that it does not curtail freedom of expression of the students, but expected that student groups adhere to guidelines.
“As per the guidelines in force, students bodies can’t use the name of IIT-Madras or its official entities in any capacity, to publicise their activities or garner support, without official permission. This group has violated the guidelines. Normally, violation of guidelines leads to temporary derecognition pending presentation of their stand to the Board of Students. In this case also, the same procedure was followed,” said a spokesperson.
The APSC was formed in 2014 by a group of students to promote Ambedkar-Periyar thoughts and initiate debates on socio-economic-political issues.
Political party leaders reacted to the controversy. “Free speech is our right. We will fight any attempt to crush dissent and debate,” Rahul Gandhi’s office tweeted. “IIT student group banned for criticizing Modi Government. What next?”
NSUI workers also protested outside Smriti Irani’s official residence in Delhi over the issue.
Hitting back, Irani tweeted: “next time fight ur battles ur self don’t hide behind NSUI. N by d way I’m b returning to Amethi soon. See you there. (sic)” In another tweet, she said: “give me a time n place n I’m ready to debate everything re governance including education.”
HRD Ministry denies role
Seeking to steer clear of the controversy surrounding the decision of IIT Madras to derecognise a students’ group, the HRD Ministry on Friday said the institute had taken the decision according to its “own procedure and guidelines”.
“The action has been taken as per the guidelines of the institute. The HRD Ministry had nothing to do with this except for forwarding the complaint received to Director, IIT Madras for comments,” the Ministry said. In Assam, HRD Minister Smriti Irani backed IIT’s action, saying the institution has clearly stated that some procedures were not followed by the students’ organisation and that it knew that the Dean will derecognise it for violating norms.
(With ENS and PTI intputs)