The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), a student association in IIT-Madras has been de-recognised by the management following an anonymous complaint to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) that alleged that the body has been criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his policies and Hindus, besides raising caste issues.
The student body was banned by the dean of students, Sivakumar M Srinivasan, on May 24 following a letter from MHRD dated May 15 inquiring about complaints raised against APSC.
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One of the leaders of APSC said they have been taking stands against caste discrimination, Hindi imposition and beef ban. “We tried to expose the Brahmanical tendencies present in IIT Madras. These stands did not go down well with the institute administration. Our administration is already filled with regressive forces supporting superstitions and events against theory of evolution within the campus.
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. IIT-Madras seems to be in a sad state of affairs where scientific temper and social justice are being curtailed but superstitions and brahmanical views are being promoted,” he said.
Reacting to the controversy, 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 while conducting their activities. “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 while conducting their meeting. Normally violation of these guidelines leads to temporary de-recognition pending their presenting their stand to the Board of Students. In the present case also, the same procedure is being followed,” said the IIT-Madras spokesperson.
The decision to ban the students’ group has come in the wake of an anonymous letter claimed to have been sent by students, addressing ‘Madam’ at the MHRD, raising complaints that APSC has been trying to de-align SC and ST students, trying to make them protest against MHRD and central government, creating hatred against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindus. The anonymous letter also sought action against APSC for issuing posters and pamphlets against MHRD circulars for separate dining for vegetarians and use of Hindi in IITs. The letter also complained to MHRD against a lecture on the ‘Contemporary Relevance of Dr Ambedkar’ organised by APSC at the IIT-M campus on Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti.
Responding to the anonymous complaint, Prisca Mathew, an MHRD under secretary sent a letter to the Director of IIT-M Madras seeking comments of the management on issues raised by the anonymous letter, eventually leading to the ban of the organisation.
APSC was created as an independent student body in April 2014 by a group of students to promote Ambedkar–Periyar thoughts and to initiate debates on socio-economic-political issues and culture within academic fraternity. A statement issued by APSC said the administration had been trying to curtail the freedom of the group ever since beginning and demanded to change its name ‘Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle’ citing it was politically motivated.
“Dean of students said 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 stubborn decision to stick with the same title. For a second time in September 2014, he sent a mail for the same reason, through the general counselling unit for students stating that the name is polarising the students. We clearly explained the motto of the study circle and relevance of Ambedkar and Periyar’s name,” said the statement.