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IIT-M goes into damage control.

Claims student body violated institute rules

E VEN AS controversy erupted over de-recognition of a students' body in IIT Madras, the institute's management on Friday defended its action.

The authorities blamed the students' body --Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) --saying the group had violated institute guidelines.

However, the management also said the 'derecognition' was temporary and APSC will get a IIT-M Police

fair hearing when the institute reopens in August. But the students affiliated to APSC see the move as autocratic that has denied them a chance to explain themselves.

APSC has been accused of spreading hatred against the prime minister and the Hindus.

Trouble began when an anonymous letter was shot off to the HRD Ministry complaining about the APSC. Signed as 'Students, IIT Madras,' the letter claimed that the higher authorities of the IIT were taking no action against the APSC which was involved in spreading hate and divisiveness'. The letter accused the APSC of creating hatred against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindus.

The letter was forwarded to IIT Madras by Prisca Mathew, under secretary to the government, 'requesting comments of the institute'. The decision to derecognise the APSC is seen as a consequence of this letter.

Members of APSC claim that the institute had several right-wing groups and they had faced threats within the campus from the groups. "They have a Vivekananda Study Circle which has regular discourses of Bhagwad Gita within the campus. They also bring members of various right-wing thinktanks to deliver lectures at IIT," said a founding member of APSC on condition of anonymity.

Last June, two months after APSC was floated, the IIT dean had directed the group to change the name since the names of Ambedkar and Periyar 'were politically motivated'. "But we decided to stick to our guns. We pointed out to the dean about the use of Vivekananda for a study group and he brushed it off saying they were using it for many years." Finding itself in thick of controversy after the news of de-recognition broke out, the IIT-Madras is on a damage control mission. A day after the controversy broke out, the institute sent out a press release saying the 'de-recognition is temporary pending their presenting their stand.

"While IIT Madras does not curtail freedom of expression of the students, it is expected that student groups adhere to guidelines which conducting their activities.

As per the guidelines, student bodies cannot use the name of IIT Madras or its official entities in any capacity to publicise their activities or garner support without official support. This group has violated norms," the statement said.

When contacted, IIT's public relations office said the students will be 'given a fair hearing after the institute reopens in August'. The students, however, are not willing to buy the argument. "We have not been told about what kind of privileges were misused. We are demanding our rights in expressing ourselves, not seeking privilege," an APSC member said.

"Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kick-start a discussion within the campus among the academic fraternity.

The issues that we discuss are important and define the way we live. IIT Madras is a public-funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should be upliftment of the common mass, the taxpayers. But their move shows that there is no space for such opinions and discussions. The right of function of any independent student body is not the 'privilege' given by the authority. Rather it's the democratic right of student themselves," the students added.

Sources say the IIT management was caught unawares when some students staged the 'kiss of love' protest on the campus last November.

" It didn't go down well with the management. The scrutiny of students' groups began after the protest," sources said.

The students backing APSC for now have decided to wait and watch for the management's next course of action. But the issue could well boil down to being the rivalry between right-wing and progressive groups in the campus.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:May 30, 2015
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