APSC issue: Students get political

IIT-M student organisations get vocal and assertive with every passing day

Chennai: On May 29, when news of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) being de-recognised first shot to spotlight, staff writers at The Fifth Estate (in-house magazine of IIT-M) published an article, Dissent and De-recognition - The issue of APSC, wherein, in conclusion, they wrote that the entire issue “has brought out a variety of dissenting voices on a campus widely perceived to be far more politically neutral than other national educational institutions”.

Remarking on the turn of events (both before as well in the aftermath), a third-year student, said, “It is not as if we are politically illiterate. There exist a variety (sometimes fiercely opposing) of political and social ideas on the campus.”Speaking to a cross-section of students, political consciousness within the institute, or rather among students, is increasing with every passing day. “I would say the emergence of student groups over the past several years has contributed, if not directly led, to what one may call political awakening,” acknowledged a fifth-year student.

The student, a former member of the executive council, however, was quick to point out the issues raised by these groups are specifically targeted at small segments of students and doesn’t seek to portray the consolidated viewpoint. (Refer box for list of student-led groups in IIT-M and their activities.) APSC, for instance, is viewed to be in response to the growing presence of right wing ideas in the institute. One of its members, Ramesh, said, “The formation of our study circle was greatly facilitated by the growing pro-Hindutva and pro-corporate tendencies among students here.”

He cited the talk given by rights activist Teesta Setalvad, about two years back, which was disrupted by some right wing students and a recent lecture given by Infosys founder Kris Gopalkrishnan when he spoke of cutting down subsidies and reforming the labour law to favour corporates.

“The fundamental issues affecting people weren’t being discussed. In this environment, we decided to form the study circle on Ambedkar jayanti last year,” Ramesh, a Ph.D. scholar, said. While the raging controversy over APSC, as the third-year student says, has had a large number of students unhappy because of the way it was played out in the media, the debate it triggered on the ‘right to freedom of expression’ was nevertheless a timely intervention.

Students council: APSC has right to petition

While rejecting the grounds on which their recognition was withdrawn, members of APSC have claimed that they were not violating the code of conduct framed by the institute for student groups.
In conversation with DC, Aroon Narayanan, speaker of student affairs council (SAC), the top-most body in-charge of all student-led activity, said the core contention of APSC is that they don’t fully agree with the code of conduct for independent student groups, passed by the board of students in February this year.

“APSC rejects the modified version of the code, which clearly states the institute’s name and logo should not be used on any publicity material without official permission,” said Aroon.
Though SAC had not included the provision in its original form, the modified version, officially in force, insisted on preventing unauthorised use of the institute’s name, besides informing the dean (student affairs) about the group’s activities regularly.

“However, I have advised them (APSC) that they have the right to petition, as do all other groups,” pointed out Aroon. Significantly, SAC, in a recently circulated internal email, asked students of the institute whether APSC should be allowed to continue as a recognised body, before the board of students convenes to take a decision.

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