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Mumbai: TISS bans protests against Ram Mandir event, Several religious events held in IIT

While a section of students question TISS’s notice that warns against protesting the consecration event, a students’ collective from the IIT Bombay has objected to a line of events scheduled on the campus on January 22, alleging that these are political events. Student organizations and unions condemn the move. 

With just a day left for the consecration of the Ayodhya temple, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai has cautioned students against protesting the Ram temple inauguration on January 22, threatening police action. Student bodies condemn the move by the Institution raising concerns on multiple fronts.

In the circular issued on Thursday, TISS said that it has been brought to their notice that a few students are planning to organize protests in the old/new campus of TISS, Mumbai, against the event of Ram Janmabhoomi Pratishthan on January 22.

“We advise all students not to indulge in any such unauthorized activities and we also strictly warn students not to participate in any such activities or demonstrations, failing which the law- enforcing agency will take necessary action”, it cautioned. 

In response to the notice, the Students’ Union of TISS condemned the noting sheet from the Registrar’s Office saying that neither any recognised nor any independent student body is organizing a protest on the said date. The union alleged that such “baseless allegation spreads misinformation among the students and is dangerous where the dignity and safety of the student community is concerned”.

The TISS statement accessed by The Observer Post said that in another circular dated 17th January 2024 (Wednesday), the institute had said that all student-organized activities  ‘are temporarily suspended till new guidelines are issued’. Despite this, the new notice signed by the TISS’s Officiating Registrar Narendra Mishra was issued asking all students to “take urgent note of the same and take care of [themselves]” and ordered a ban on protests.

The previous notice forbade them from conducting any event on campus; to allegedly reframe guidelines other than those mandated by UGC for holding events without mentioning a stipulated time frame.

“In order to facilitate an inclusive participatory environment, all dialogues and debates on the campus, the competent authority has decided to reframe the existing guidelines for events, seminars, lectures series and screening of audio- visual materials among others. Until then, all such activities and events are suspended” it said.

Student organizations condemn the move

An official from the administration reportedly said that the second notice was merely a precautionary measure. “The idea is to maintain a peaceful environment on campus of the academic institution,” he said.

However, the notice has shocked the students leaving them to question the institution’s move with no provocation.

A student body named Fraternity TISS had said that there was no such protest announcement by the students and called the institute’s circular “arbitrary” and “undemocratic”.

TISS Student Union said, “Why was another notification specifically mentioning the event of Ram Janmabhoomi Pran Pratisthan on 22nd January, 2024 circulated despite the previous circular?

“This clearly pushes a certain political agenda onto the students”.

The Union demanded to know the intention behind the notice and its withdrawal.

Another left-wing student organization named Progressive Students Forum pointed out how the simultaneous release of the two notices with warnings forbidding students from going against them highlights the priorities of the administration “which lie in silencing the student voices in an attempt to support and uplift the mainstream political narrative”. It “strongly” condemned the move calling it “authoritarian and anti-student”.

PSF-TISS alleged that the BJP-led central government has merged religion with state which is against the secular values of the country. “These recent attempts seem to be, to directly intervene in partisan politics run against the very idea of TISS,” it said.

It said that the notices act as a means to further the RSS-backed BJP’s agenda of saffronizing the university spaces. 

Fraternity TISS lists down several reasons condemning the notice in its statement released on Friday, saying, “The January 22 event is not just a temple inauguration but a ‘victory event’ symbolising an Islamophobic and violent anti-Muslim campaign,” while underlining that the inauguration event was a matter of concern as it was being built on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid.

All student bodies called out for the TISS students to uphold the values of their institution and India’s constitution. They appealed to other student communities to not fall into the trap of the right-wing forces, and promised to remain committed to defending their rights in a democracy. 

In response to the notices, the students’ collectives have said that campus spaces should be allowed to be platforms for dissent and that the authorities must refrain from engaging in acts that suppress student voices of anti-discrimination and injustice in line with the UGC’s guidelines for Students’ Entitlement —  “As democratic citizens, the students are entitled to freedom of thought and expression within and outside their institution. The college/university must allow space for free exchange of ideas and public debate so as to foster a culture of critical reasoning and questioning. College/university authorities must not impose unreasonable, partisan or arbitrary restrictions on organizing seminars, lectures and debates that do not otherwise violate any law.”

IIT Bombay conducts series of events ahead of consecration of Ayodhya Temple

On the contrary, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay permits a series of unofficial events planned for the occasion inside the campus. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) took to X (formerly Twitter), objecting to the events scheduled on Monday and before, within the campus. 

An informal students’ collective of IIT-Bombay pointed out that the institute has reportedly given permission to a procession called ‘Shriram Darbar Shobha Yatra’ happening on 21st January in campus, the Director will be inaugurating a Gaushala on 22, and a musical event called ‘Ramdhun’ will be taking place on Saturday, 20th.

“We condemn the surrender of this institute in front of the right wing political forces while on the other hand it continues to suppress any activity by the independent student collectives” they collective said.

In response to the backlash from a section of IIT students, the spokesperson said that the guidelines were “interim”. Admitting that all except ‘gaushala’ inauguration are unofficial events, he justified an official’s participation by saying, “It was much needed to reduce man-animal conflict on campus. The old ‘gaushala’ was in bad shape. We have repaired and refurbished it.”

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