IIT Madras has removed a controversial clause barring “political activity” that was included in a recent circular. Certain clauses in the undertaking — which was to be signed by students, scholars and project associates among others — had triggered objections from students.
K Sethupathi, chairman of the Council of Wardens, sent a mail to students directing them to follow the revised circular on the institute’s website. The excluded portion said: “I undertake not to indulge in any political activity within the campus of the institute as it is against the apolitical nature of the college.” The portion now says: “I shall also not indulge in any activity that will adversely affect the image of the institute.”
A senior IIT Madras official said the new document, inserted along with three earlier ones, is being circulated in the wake of nationwide protests in educational institutions.
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Sethupathi had initially denied reports of insertion of the new rules, and termed it a mistake. After The Indian Express contacted him, Sethupathi sent the mail to students directing them to follow the revised document.
Many students asked what the “image” of the institution was, and what acts could be considered to affect it. “These are all very vague and arbitrary usages spoiling the liberal face of institutions like IIT Madras,” a student said.
Protesting against alleged attempts to curtail their freedom, student groups in the IIT said the management was using “vague clauses that will be open to interpretation, and can be used against any student at any point to drive him/her out of the hostel, which is the last point in the undertaking”.
The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, an independent students’ body, has decided to file a petition before the management against the retained clause.
Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director of IIT Madras, said a mistake has been corrected. “Retaining the clause on protecting the image of the institution has no hidden agenda. If students have objections, we will definitely look at all the arguments,” he said.