Author and activist Arundhati Roy has come out in support of the student group banned by IIT-Madras on the charge of inciting “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindus, saying it had “touched a nerve” by making the connection between big business and casteism.
Besides sending an email to the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), Roy issued a statement expressing her support to the group that was “derecognised” by the IIT-Madras following an anonymous complaint forwarded by the Union human resource ministry.
“You have my unhesitating support. You have touched a nerve – what you are saying and seeing i.e.: that casteism and corporate capitalism go hand in hand is the last thing the authorities and the government want to hear,” she wrote in her email to the group comprising largely of Dalit students.
“Because they know that you are right. It is the most dangerous thing for them to hear right now,” she added in the email.
In her statement, Roy questioned what it was about the APSC “that frightened the dean of students of the IIT-Madras enough for him to unilaterally 'derecognise' it”.
She described the official reason given by the authorities – that the APSC was spreading hatred among communities – as “the usual idiotic red herring”.
“Another reason they were given, the students say, is that the name of their organisation was considered to be too 'political'. The same does not apply obviously to other student organisations such as the Vivekananda Study Circle,” she said.
Roy contended the authorities had acted because the students had “seen through this charade and have put their finger on the most dangerous possible place”.
“They have made the connection between corporate globalisation and the perpetuation of caste. There is hardly anything more threatening to this present ruling establishment than doing what APSC did – celebrating both Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar,” the statement said.
“This is what has brought them into the line of fire. This is what is sought to be quashed. Equally threatening is the VCK's (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s) announcement about joining forces with the left and progressive Muslim organizations,” it added.
The statement questioned why Ambedkar’s “real followers” were being targeted at a time when Hindutva groups were “outrageously celebrating Ambedkar, the man who publicly denounced Hinduism, as though he is their very own man”. It further questioned why a Dalit man was beaten to death for having a song about Ambedkar as the ring tone on his phone.
“The derecognition of APSC is a recognition of a kind. It is a recognition that it is absolutely right to make the connections it makes. And that many are beginning to make those connections,” the statement said.
The action against the APSC triggered demands by student groups in Chennai on Saturday that the ban should be withdrawn and the IIT-Madras should not interfere in the activities of student bodies.
The Democratic Youth Federation of India protested in front of the IIT-Madras and police detained several demonstrators.