Mumbai: Tata Institute Of Social Sciences Students Condemn ‘Stifling Of Free Speech’

Mumbai: Tata Institute Of Social Sciences Students Condemn ‘Stifling Of Free Speech’

Days after suspending Ramadas Prini Sivanandan, a Dalit PhD student, for his activism on and outside the campus, the institute came out with its own model code of conduct (MCC) until the conclusion of the general elections.

Meeta BhattiUpdated: Saturday, April 27, 2024, 04:03 PM IST
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Mumbai: Tata Institute Of Social Sciences Students Condemn ‘Stifling Of Free Speech’ | FPJ

Mumbai: Student organisations at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) have voiced their opposition to a recent directive banning a wide range of ‘political’ activities on campus, calling it an attempt to stifle free speech.

Days after suspending Ramadas Prini Sivanandan, a Dalit PhD student, for his activism on and outside the campus, the institute came out with its own model code of conduct (MCC) until the conclusion of the general elections.

In a joint statement, six student organisations at TISS criticised the diktat issued “under the garb of MCC”. As per the statement, “It is important to mention that the MCC governs the conduct of political parties and candidates during the elections. Therefore, it cannot be just used to strip away the democratic rights of the students, who as citizens of the country have fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution to free speech and expression, assembly and association. While the MCC came into force with the announcement of elections on March 16, the TISS administration is using that as an excuse to put blanket curb on student activities on the campus after over a month,” reads the statement.

The student bodies also said, “The MCC nowhere provides that citizens or students be prohibited from their activities during the election period, even on their direct engagement on political issues. In fact, the election period is the most vibrant time for citizens for engagement on social and political issues to communicate their aspirations. Be that as it may, even otherwise this move is in clear violation of constitutional principles. The fact that this is being done by an institute of higher learning like TISS, which itself espouses social and political issues, is unfortunate and must not be allowed in a democracy.”

The students fear that these guidelines would allow the administration to target even welfare activities carried out by students. “With the broad and ambiguous wording used in the circular, which leaves it to the discretion of the institute as to what issues it considers political, it could even be used to stop all welfare activities of students. This is when various student organisations conduct online orientations and classes for aspirants who wish to join the institute. With an unclear purview of the prohibitions, the administration might even consider such important student initiatives as unjustifiable and take action against them,” read the statement.

TISS has been facing criticism for harshly treating its students for their activism. Last week, the institute issued a suspension order to Ramadas, a PhD candidate from the School of Development Studies at TISS for what it called as “anti-national” activities. The institute also served notices to at least three more students for various acts of alleged indiscipline, including disrupting a pooja to commemorate consecration of Ram temple in Ayodhya and arguing with teachers and police officials.

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