Don’t participate in any ‘anti-national activities’, IIT-Bombay tells its students
The administration of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) late on Tuesday issued a circular directing its students not to participate in any “anti-national” activities. The directive was the latest in a series of communications from the institute’s administration after its students, along with those from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), have been at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the attack on students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
A circular issued by the dean of student affairs on Tuesday evening, reiterating the model code of conduct for students and residents, read, “Residents shall not participate in any anti-national, anti-social and or any undesirable activities.” However, there is no mention of any guideline for any “anti-national” activity in the model codes of conduct laid down in the constitution of the institute’s hostel council. “There is no mention of this particular rule in the old code of conducts. However, the constitution of the council grants the dean, student affairs, the power to alter the rules,” said a student, on the condition of anonymity. The institute administration on Wednesday said the rules circulated on Tuesday were the original rules that applied to all students and residents of campus. Tapanendu Kundu, dean of student affairs, said. “The circular was an internal communication issued to inform the students and hostel wardens about the codes of conduct set by the institute. There have been some doubts in the past. No hostel will allow any anti-national or anti-social activities. This is a general rule.”
Tuesday’s circular further said speeches, plays or music or any other activity that disturbs the peace of the hostel environment is strictly prohibited, even if a faculty [member] is part of the gathering. Amid other general hostel rules, the circular also said that posters and pamphlets cannot be distributed without the permission of the dean of student affairs.
The circular has been criticised by students and faculty. Some students took to social media on Wednesday night to highlight problems with the circular. “Definition of all these terms, anti-national and anti-social, is important. It is ridiculous that authorities have to point out ‘anti-national activities’. It resonates very strongly with what people in power have been doing lately,” said a student, on the condition of anonymity.
On January 9, the institute issued a circular to its employees, quoting the service conditions and conduct rules under the IIT Act. It asked employees not to make any statements of fact or opinion, which can lead to criticism of any current or recent policy of the institute or can embarrass the relations of the institute with the Central government. Failure to comply with the directions will attract disciplinary action. A similar circular was issued by the TISS administration on December 19, stating that teachers couldn’t go for protests while on duty.
On January 22, IIT-Bombay director Subhasis Chaudhuri met students and faculty at an open house and asked them to keep politics out of campus. However, protests have continued.
“The circular to students is a fall-out of the ongoing protests and the statement in support of JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam, who was arrested on the charges of sedition,” said one of the protesting students, on the condition of anonymity. On Monday, IIT Bombay for Justice — a collective of students, faculty members and employees — issued a statement, condemning the sedition charges filed against alumnus Imam.
A 2011 graduate of IIT-B’s computer science department and a PhD scholar of JNU, Imam courted controversy for his remarks made on January 16 in the context of CAA, NRC and the National Population Register (NPR). He had allegedly said that if five lakh people came together, they could cut off Northeast from India. While Imam has since clarified that he was speaking of road blockades, at least five states have filed sedition charges against him — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.