The Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, said its Gmail, Facebook and institutional mail accounts were repeatedly hacked last week, starting the day it organised a talk by a Harvard professor on reservation in engineering education.
The APSC, an independent student body recognised by IIT-Madras, made headlines earlier this year when it was de-recognised by the institution following an anonymous complaint that it created “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindus. The decision to ban the group was subsequently revoked after sections of civil society lashed out against the decision.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, research scholar and a founding member of the group, Akhil Bharathan, said: “We found out on the evening of August 24 that we could not login to our Gmail, Facebook and Smail (the student mail in the IIT campus) accounts. By night, we recovered both Gmail and Facebook accounts by going to the ‘Forgot password’ option.”
But then, on the morning of August 25, the group found that both their Gmail and Facebook accounts were hacked again. This time the members were unable to recover the accounts easily since the alternate email id and verification phone number that they provided to recover passwords were also changed.
“From the last account activity, we found that the IP address of the computer used to steal the password is from within the IIT-Madras campus,” a press statement issued by the group said.
Finally, on Saturday, after four days of technical brainstorming, the group secured their Gmail and Facebook accounts. The institute has promised to retrieve the Smail account too.
“To us, it seems no mere coincidence that this dastardly act comes close on the heels of the ‘anonymous’ letter sent to the HRD ministry earlier this year,” the press statement said.
APSC members have said that they discovered that the accounts were hacked few hours before a talk titled “Merit and Reservation in Engineering Education” by Ajantha Subramanian, a professor of anthropology at the Harvard University.
“As of now, we have no idea as to who might have done it. But it’s for sure that professor Subramanian, with her data and extensive research, had made some startling revelations on the whole issue of reservation in engineering education which could disturbed some,” Abhinav Surya, a member of the APSC, told Hindustan Times.
Detractors of the APSC have called the body a "Dalit organisation", even as members say that it consists of students irrespective of caste and creed.