Around 200 protesters were detained on Monday for jamming a busy road near IIT Madras as they demanded immediate revocation of a ban on a Dalit students’ group of the prestigious technical education institute.
The Jayalalithaa government has positioned a large posse of policemen near the institute to prevent violence. Still, traffic has been hit on the Adyar stretch as slogan-shouting protesters worked in teams to block the road and police rushed instantly to detain them.
IIT Madras has been besieged with a vigorous agitation since Friday after it derecognised the Ambedkar-Periyar Student Circle (APSC) on an anonymous complaint forwarded by the Union human resource development ministry, accusing the group of fomenting hatred against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindus.
A rush of support from political parties and Dalit organisations against the controversial decision added fuel to the agitation that reached Delhi, too, as scores of students raised slogans outside Shashtri Bhawan, the HRD ministry headquarters, on Monday.
“Youngsters must get freedom of speech on campuses. Extending bans is like suppressing their voices. This is completely wrong,” said PL Punia, chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) that has sent a notice to IIT Madras for an explanation.
NDA ally RPI also joined the chorus against the ban on Monday.
The Republican Party of India termed the premier institute's action as an "act of injustice" and "attack" on freedom of expression.
RPI leader Ramdas Athawale denounced IIT-M's action as "unjust" and said HRD minister Smriti Irani should have intervened to thwart the measure taken by the institute against the students body.
"The action has been an injustice and also an attack on the freedom of expression of the students. Even if they had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the action (by IIT-M)was unwarranted. De-recognising the student body is not a solution to this.
"Ideally, the minister (Irani) should have intervened in the matter and put an end to the row," Athawale, a dalit leader from Maharashtra, told reporters in Delhi.
"Students bodies everywhere slam and attack governments. That does not mean you de-recongnise them. The youth criticised the government over the ghar-wapsi programme and reduction of monetary allocation to schemes related to SCs and STs," sadi Athawale, whose party is an alliance partner of BJP in Maharashtra. He said he will meet Irani to discuss the issue.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi demanded on Sunday Prime Minister Modi's “direct intervention” in revoking the order. The DMK students’ wing and the pro-backward class Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) were at the forefront of protests along with APSC members.
The Congress, too, has joined the protest chorus, accusing the Modi government of stifling freedom of expression.
“Anger mounted after the Union government and the IIT management justified the ban, saying the students’ group had violated the institute’s guidelines. Hope it doesn’t spiral out of control,” a source said.
Trouble began after the complaint accused the APSC of trying to mobilise backward community students against the NDA government’s policy on Hindi and the ban on beef.
“We believe this group is politically motivated and is getting funds and encouragement from some outside organisation,” said the ministry in its letter to IIT Madras.
Most Dravidian parties, especially the DMK refuse to accept Hindi as the national language, and many people belonging to impoverished scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities traditionally eat beef to supplement their nutritional requirements.
An IIT spokesperson said student groups were not allowed to use the institute’s name to publicise their activities or garner support.
(With agency inputs)