The banning of a student’s group by the authorities of IIT Madras has snowballed into a major issue with protests over the incident in Tamil Nadu capital Chennai spilling to Delhi as well. The national capital too witnessed protest against HRD minister Smriti Irani for the second day in succession.
Indian Institute of Technology-Madras had on Friday derecognised Ambedkar Periyar Students Circle (APSC), a student run group in the campus for allegedly criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government’s policies. The action against the group had come after an anonymous complaint, sent to the HRD ministry, was forwarded to the IIT-Madras authorities. Acting on the unverified complaint the institute decided to act against Ambedkar Periyar Students Circle (APSC).
APSC on its part strongly defended their activities and expressed deep concerns over the action meted out by the campus authorities.
“We have not violated the Constitution. The Constitution allows us to criticize the government and its policies,” Abhinav Surya, the head of the study circle had claimed.
And on Saturday, strong protest erupted with the left-leaning student group Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) leading a pack of students outside the IIT Madras campus. The students and volunteers of the group raised slogans against Modi-led government and in particular against the HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Many members of the DYFI were detained by the local police as they tried to block the road leading inside the campus. According to the authorities, the security inside and around the IIT Madras campus has been increased in anticipation of more protests.
Earlier on Friday, the NSUI- student outfit of Congress party, too had pitched a strong protest outside the minister’s official residence in Delhi.
The controversy couldn’t keep away the political overtones as DMK and MDMK criticised IIT Madras authorities, terming their action as threat to freedom of expression.
“Such regressive and repressive actions will lead to unrest and rebellion among youth. This stand to curb freedom of expression taken by the institution and the Union government is most disheartening,” DMK Treasurer M K Stalin said in a statement.
While MDMK leader Vaiko slammed the Union HRD Ministry Smriti Irani saying, “Irani should realise that none has the right to snatch away the basic right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India”.
But Union HRD Minister Irani has backed IIT Madras over their action against the student’s group.
“Autonomous educational institutions have the right to administer their institution as per their own laws,” Smriti Irani had said.
On Saturday morning, there was a fresh round of protest in Delhi with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) raising slogans against Irani at Jantar Mantar. Many members and volunteers of the AAP criticised the central government alleging that government is “snatching the rights of students”.
It all began on the Friday morning, when the group was told by IIT-Madras authorities that it can’t use the campus auditorium, IIT email on its literature and the institute notice board for publishing and promoting its activities. However, authorities at the institute claimed the action was taken after it was found that the students group violated the guidelines of the institute.
“IIT-Madras does not curtail students’ freedom of expression, it is expected that student groups adhere to these guidelines while conducting their activities,” Prof Ramamurthy, Acting Director, told the press.
The students group Ambedkar Periyar Students Circle (APSC) has been maintaining that they didn’t even get a chance to explain its position.