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Facing flak, Ministry & IIT-M defend ban on student group

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Authorities say that the group did not follow guidelines prescribed.

With the decision of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, to derecognise temporarily a student group, Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle), for alleged criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi attracting nationwide criticism on Friday, the institute authorities and the Union Human Resource Ministry went into a fire-fighting mode.

The IIT said the derecognition was temporary as the group did not follow the guidelines. A release said student groups desiring to use the institute’s resources were required to be recognised and they should follow the guidelines prescribed by the Board of Students.

In the national capital, where the National Students Union of India staged a protest outside the residence of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, Higher Education Secretary Satyanarayan Mohanty told The Hindu that the decision was taken at the institutional level. “We received a complaint about a pamphlet issued by the Study Circle and we forwarded it to IIT-M requesting comments of the institute. They decided to take action, which they are authorised to do as per the guidelines. The autonomy of the IIT-M is secure,” he said.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Ms. Irani locked horns on Twitter over the NSUI protest. In Tamil Nadu, the Congress and the DMK slammed the decision.

Sruthisagar Yamunan, Anita Joshua add

Backlash against de-recognition of IIT-Madras study group

A number of student organisations come together to protest against the derecognition of a study group at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, on Friday.

V. Prabhakaran, a student activist, said black badges would be worn by students across colleges on Saturday to express their displeasure. “If the derecognition is not reversed, we have planned to start Ambedkar-Periyar study circles in all colleges and universities as a mark of protest,” he said.

Congress Tamil Nadu unit president E.V.K.S. Elangovan slammed the IIT-Madras management and the Union Human Resource Ministry for stifling the voice of the students who were propagating ideas of social justice and rationalism on the institute campus. Mr. Elangovan said the derecognition was an extension of the doctrines of the RSS.

In a statement, DMK treasurer M.K. Stalin said he was shocked to see the level of intolerance displayed in one of India’s most reputable educational institutions, IIT-Madras.

“This incident displays a clear unwarranted interference of the Union government in the running of an educational institution. We should be urging and cultivating young minds to engage in societal dialogue constructively, and not stifling dissent,” he said.

VCK chief Thol Tirumavalavan said such study circles served as a ground for students to have a critical thought process about the society they lived in.

With the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) staging a protest outside the residence of Union Human Resource Minister Smriti Irani, the Ministry went into a fire-fighting mode, forwarding the IIT-M’s statement and issuing one of its own. Ms. Irani challenged Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to an open debate on education.

The Minister took on Mr. Gandhi after the NSUI protest which he followed up with two tweets: “IIT student group banned for criticising Modi Government. What next? Free speech is our right. We will fight any attempt to crush dissent and debate.’’

Ms. Irani tweeted back: “Next time fight ur [your] battles urself [yourself], don’t hide behind NSUI.’’

While the BJP defended the IIT-M’s decision, the Left parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) criticised the derecognition of the study group.

Earlier in the day, RJD president Lalu Prasad tweeted: ``Modi Govt crushing dalit voice & freedom of speech, bans a dalit group in IIT Madras for criticising govt. Is it ur way of honouring Ambedkar?’’

Given the political backlash, the issue is learnt to have preoccupied the government at the highest level with the Ministry putting together a file for the Prime Minister’s Office in which it included the anonymous complaint against the study group on which IIT-M’s comments were sought.

On why the Ministry chose to take cognisance of an anonymous complaint, officials maintained that every paper which came to the government was accounted for. “It is either disposed of or sent for comments.” Also, they pointed out that this complaint was substantiated with evidence.

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Printable version | Jul 18, 2019 11:45:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/facing-flak-ministry-iitm-defend-ban-on-student-group/article7262011.ece

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