Students of IIT Bombay receive warning on "anti-national activities”

Mumbai: Students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay have been warned not to participate in any “anti-national, anti-social or any other undesirable activities” by the administration, through a circular sent via email to all students on Tuesday from the Dean of Student Affairs (DOSA). Students have slammed the circular, saying it seeks to clamp down on their right to freedom of expression.

While the circular does not define what such activities are, it has been issued at a time when IIT-Bombay students have been participating in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and expressed solidarity with students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia. It also comes close on the heels of a week-long voluntary lecture series on the Preamble to the Constitution, organised by the students, till January 25. Students of IIT-Bombay are currently part of a wider signature campaign against the arrest of Sharjeel Imam, an IIT-Bombay alumnus booked for sedition.

Directive no.10 in the circular issued on Tuesday reads, "Residents should not participate in any anti-national, anti-social or any other undesirable activities." Students revealed the circular stated that speeches or plays or music or any other activities that disturb the peace of hostel environment are strictly prohibited even if the faculty is part of the gathering. Only matters approved by the DOSA will be permitted.”

Students have criticised the circular claiming that it denies them their right to freedom of expression. Pavan Kumar, a student, said, "This circular has been issued because recently, before January 26, we had sessions on the Preamble of the Constitution everyday for a week. Students and teachers both participated in this to educate each other and spread awareness regarding various principles of the Constitution. Now, we have to seek permissions from the dean for organising anything on campus."

The circular bans the distribution of any posters, leaflets or pamphlets in the hostel without the permission of the DOSA. It also warns the students against screening pirated or unauthorised or unlicensed movies, instructs them not to move around furniture and fitments, and to refrain from defacing walls, doors, windows, shelves from inside or outside.

It then reiterates general rules for living on campus, that pertain to prohibiting overnight stay of any person of the opposite sex, whether a guest or otherwise, in the hostel after 10 pm. Blood relatives like parents, brothers and sisters are permitted to stay in the hostel overnight, but only after the permission of the dean. This, students said, was with a view to prevent any kind of gathering on campus.

A student on request of anonymity, said, "We all know why we have received the circular right now when our fellow students are out on the streets protesting. We staged several protests to show our solidarity and support, but the IIT, Bombay management does not want us to stand for our rights."

Students of IIT had started a Facebook page called 'IIT Bombay for Justice' to communicate and coordinate details about the protests.

A spokesperson of IIT, Bombay said, "IIT Bombay for Justice is not an officially recognised body of our institute. The circular has no new rules. They were always there in the statutes."

IIT Bombay had earlier stated that it is a non-political institution.

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