While more and more political parties, student youth movements and academics from other IITs and universities have come out in support for IIT-Madras student body Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), nearly 100 APSC members Tuesday organised a march in the campus and read out Dr B R Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste.
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After a negotiation meeting on Tuesday with APSC representatives, the IIT-Madras management issued a statement clarifying they will convene an emergency meeting of the Board of Students within a few days to discuss demands that include re-recognition for the student body, an unconditional apology from the Dean of Students for misusing official powers, and ensuring the rights of independent student bodies on campus.
Dean of Students, Sivakumar M Srinivasan, was not available for comment.
The Indian Express spoke to a number of students and professors of IIT-Madras who were part of APSC. One professor said it was the panicked decision by the Dean of Students after seeing the HRD Ministry’s letter that led to the controversy. “He forgot that IIT is an autonomous institution and MHRD has no right to send a circular asking what we learn and discuss in the campus. The ‘controversial’ event in which APSC had violated rules was held on April 14. If there was a violation of rules, why did they wait till May 22 for the MHRD letter to take action?” he said.
According to some professors who teach APSC coordinators, the group was mostly run by students who got top academic grades. “For instance, professors of Akhil Bharathan, a popular face from APSC, who is pursuing a Masters in Social Sciences, said he has scored ‘Grade S’ in some subjects, which is the top rank.”
Bharathan claimed it was the Right-wing Hindutva character of the management that forced him to join APSC. “When other students’ bodies like Vivekananda Study Circle and Vandemataram organise programmes that promote superstitious beliefs, bring religious leaders who attribute the origin of science to Vedas and question the theory of evolution, the management is fine with it. But they have a problem with APSC because we discuss socio-economic issues, politics and government policies,” said Bharathan.
G Ramesh, one of the founders of APSC, a PhD student in Physics, claimed there is hostility towards those who raise questions on social issues.
According to APSC, the management on May 22 had shown them an MHRD circular, seeking a reply from the management on APSC activities, as the reason for the de-recognition. “They only gave us the printouts of the MHRD letter and the attached pamphlets criticising the government. But after it became a controversy, the management changed their stand and said the de-recognition is for violating certain rules,” an APSC coordinator claimed. One such pamphlet that reportedly invited the attention of the MHRD read: “The Modi government, while carrying forward its Hindutva agenda, is simultaneously assisting the multinational corporates loot mother India.” Another read: “In the name of swadesi they (Centre) are selling Mother India and dividing her children in the name of communalism.”