Ban lifted, IIT students group says will ‘become more independent’

  • Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 08, 2015 15:30 IST

The Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), the student group banned by the IIT-Madras after a complaint about spreading hatred against the Prime Minister and Hindus, said on Monday it plans to pursue its activities more vigourously following the lifting of restrictions on it.

APSC founding member Akhil Bharathan said the administration of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras will have to think twice before acting against the group in future because of the “democratic support” it received on social media platforms and the media.

“We are hoping to continue as we used to do, or in fact in a much more independent way, because the administration will now be wary of imposing any undemocratic bans,” said Bharathan, a research scholar.

The IIT-M revoked its “derecognition” of APSC on Sunday after the measure was widely criticised by civil society groups and political parties as suppression of free speech. However, the institution said the student group will be required to follow a set of guidelines.

The APSC was banned last month after the Union human resource development ministry forwarded to the IIT-M an anonymous complaint that it was promoting “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindus.

The decision to revoke the ban was taken at a meeting between APSC and the IIT-M’s board members.

“The Dean of Students reinstated the recognition of APSC as an independent student body, and after consultation with the APSC representatives, recommended Professor Milind Brahme as the Faculty Advisor," a statement from IIT-M said.

Abhinav Surya, a third-year mechanical engineering student and active member of the APSC, told Hindustan Times that the lifting of the ban was a “great step forward”.

“The institution has finally realised that the ban was unjust. The revoking will help in taking forward democratic conversations we were trying to have,” said Surya.

APSC members said the outpouring of support on social media platforms played a key role in the lifting of the ban.

“We are very happy for the democratic support that we received from outside when the ban was imposed. This support has taken across the activities of a small group of students in one corner of the country to a large audience,” said Bharathan.

The ban, he said, signified that the government and administration had developed a sense of paranoia for any form of dissent.

“I hope that this kind of support is extended in the long run too,” he said.

Even as social media users and democratic groups across the country celebrated the revoking of the ban, it remains to be seen how the APSC continues with its activities.

Milind Brahme, the IIT-Madras professor appointed as the faculty advisor to the APSC, said it will be his responsibility to see the group operates according to institutional guidelines, like the restriction on using the IIT-M tag for any activities.

“There was confusion in conveying the institutional guidelines, which every such group needs to follow, to the APSC. The guidelines have been in practice since March but the APSC members were not informed properly,” Brahme said.

Surya, however, clarified that the existing guidelines are expected to be reframed by taking into consideration the opinions of students, independent student bodies and the administration.

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