After Smriti Irani’s house, now protest outside IIT Madras

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Members of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) are protesting outside IIT Madras condemning the Human Resource and Development Ministry and demanding withdrawal of the ban, following the decision to de-recognize the student discussion forum Ambedkar -Periyar Study Circle (APSC). The decision was taken based on an anonymous complaint received by Ministry of Human Resource Development, which said the forum is criticizing the Central government and creating “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindus. The under secretary in the Human Resource Ministry, Prisca Mathew has written to IIT Madras , seeking an explanation and response to the complaint received. The Radical Students’ Youth Front and Thanthai Periyar group will also be staging protests in Chennai on Saturday.

Apparently, the decision has ignited a political storm and fierce debate across the country. Subsequently, Union Education Minister Smriti Irani has said that the Ministry has only sought comments on the issue and she denied any role in the ban. She further added that the IIT Madras is an autonomous institution and the decision to ban the forum has been taken by the institute. The mail from Dean of Students reads : “Because of the misuse of the privileges given to your study circle, your student body is de-recognized by the institute”. However it does not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC.

The APSC was formed as a discussion forum on April 14, 2014 to promote the teachings of social reformers BR Ambedkar and Periyar EV Ramasamy. The forum was used as a platform to propagate Periyar’s thoughts and to initiate debates on socio-economic-political and cultural impacts which affects common mass within academic fraternity. “We resent the fact that the Dean has de-recognized our study circle unilaterally without giving us a fair hearing and an opportunity to represent ourselves” says Ramesh, Founder member of the APSC. The complaint also alleged that the forum is mobilizing students against government policies, including the ban on beef imposed in some states. However, Ramesh dismissed the allegation that the forum has been engaged in “divisive” activities.

“The true face of BJP has come out with this issue”, says Lakshmanan Chinnayian, Assistant professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies. “Though, it is too late for IIT, Madras, to come out with such a forum, this issue will hopefully unite all like minded people to fight the fascist government at the centre”, added Lakshmanan.

“A discussion around caste and criticizing the policies of the government cannot be at all compared to spreading hatred. The APSC has been proactive in taking up issues of casteism in the campus and de-recognising them is an attack on the democratic rights of the citizens of our country. The connivance of the right wing forces on the campus has resulted in this act and the administration along with the MHRD were biased against the student body. The surprisingly fast and lopsided decision is shame to the institute”, says Deepak Johnson, former student, IIT Madras.

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