The ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras was revoked today with immediate effect after one week row.
The ban was effected last month on the forum in IIT-Madras for being critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and brought into focus a purported letter by Smriti Irani, minister of HRD whose letter to the institute led to the ban.
Revoking its ban, “the Dean of Students reinstated the recognition of APSC as an independent student body, and after consultation with the APSC representatives, recommended Professor Milind Brahme as the Faculty Advisor,” said a statement from IIT-Madras.
The minister and the BJP government came under criticism from the educational bodies all over the country following the IIT-M’s decision which they described was equivalent to stifling the voice of the students, who should instead be encouraged to question and learn as part of their curriculum in consonance with the global, especially the US and European standards.
But IIT-Madras insisted that “as per the guidelines in force, student bodies cannot use its name or its official entities in any capacity to publicise their activities or garner support without official permission.”
Going by this interpretation, no JNU student activity nor any other student protest would fall within the norms of “legal” activity. The Board of Students of IIT-M presented their views following which the authorities said some modifications and suggestions will be taken up for ensuring uniform guidelines for independent student bodies.
“Some of these will be implemented by the Office of Dean (Students), while the Student Affairs Council, Board of Students, and Senate will take up the modifications in due course for consideration,” said the statement adding that controversy has been “closed”.
But the bigger challenge still looms large on the educational institutions such as JNU where open criticism and debates are normal daily happenings. The BJP-led government may subtly implement its so-called Hindutva agenda but it should know that in a multi-faceted society like India dissension should be tolerated, not killed with brute force.
Instead of dashing off a letter to IIT-Madras Dean seeking ban on APSC activities, the minister herself should have involved them in adebate on merits and demerits of the government, policies and Modi’s governance. This could have given the dissent voice to what APSC tried to do in the campus. When the forum is an open one, any ABVP member could have done this.
The issue of IIT-Madras may be closed but the NDA government and the HRD minister should learn from to follow the democratic ways of indulging in debates to wean away support to their viewpoints than shutting the mouth of the student bodies.