The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, a prominent educational institution known for academic excellence, recently introduced interim guidelines aimed at maintaining an apolitical environment while fostering academic pursuits. These guidelines have sparked significant reactions among the student body, raising concerns about the restrictions imposed on free expression and assembly within the campus premises.
Institutional Guidelines And Restrictive Measures
Outlined as an interim measure, the following guidelines aim to steer the institution in this direction until a comprehensive set of protocols is formulated by a designated committee and formally sanctioned.
Types of Events
Events, encompassing class sessions, departmental seminars, and public talks, are categorized. These events are further classified into:
– Purely Non-Political: Centered on scientific, technological, research, literary, or artistic subjects devoid of any political content.
– Potentially Political: Involving content that could be perceived as political or socially contentious.
Any form of protest, including marches or gatherings on campus, necessitates prior authorization from the institute and local authorities.
Permission and Speaker Vetting
Organizing an event on campus mandates official consent, barring certain exceptions:
– Student-Organized Events: Must be facilitated through recognized campus bodies under the student gymkhana, sanctioned by the Dean (SA).
Recording violations may result in expulsion from the venue and subsequent disciplinary measures.
All participants are expected to maintain decorum during events, seminars, talks, and course lectures. Disruptive behavior may lead to expulsion from the venue, with security intervention if necessary, reported to relevant authorities.
Complaint Filing Procedure
An internal mechanism exists for lodging complaints or grievances:
-Academic Complaints: Addressed to respective academic unit heads, potentially escalated to the respective Dean’s office.
– Other Matters: Reported to specialized committees or relevant institute functionaries.
Internal dispute resolution must be sought before involving external agencies, except in cases related to criminal violations.
Defamation and Disciplinary Action
Adherence to the IITB code of conduct prohibits employees from making statements that criticize the institute’s policies or actions in any public forum or embarrass the institute’s relations with central or state government. Indian Penal Code’s defamation rules apply universally, including to students.
Disciplinary measures will be taken against any individual, including students, found violating defamation rules or engaging in any form of misconduct.
These guidelines serve as a framework to maintain the sanctity of academic pursuits while upholding the institution’s reputation and mission, fostering an environment conducive to scholarly discourse.
IIT Bombay’s interim guidelines emphasize maintaining an apolitical stance within the campus to prevent socio-political controversies that might deviate from the institute’s core educational mission. These guidelines categorize events into non-political and potentially political spheres, requiring prior approval for the latter category. The restrictions extend to organizing protests, gatherings, inviting external speakers, and screening films, all of which necessitate official approval.
Students’ Perceptions And Concerns
Students have expressed strong reservations regarding the implementation of these guidelines, questioning the institution’s enforcement of an apolitical atmosphere. They highlight the ambiguity in defining what constitutes a political event, expressing concerns about their right to address socio-political issues, such as humanitarian crises and human rights abuses, on campus. A student queried, “What exactly does the institute mean by political events? Are we not allowed to create awareness about humanitarian issues on campus?”
The student body’s concerns stem from instances where expressions of dissent or commemoration were allegedly curbed. The guidelines were believed to be a response to a solidarity meeting mourning the Gaza tragedy, where a silent gathering was disrupted and stationery to make posters were confiscated.
There were further allegations of faculty members being targeted and academic discussions being obstructed, fueling discontent among the students.
“What exactly does the institute mean by political events? If one is trying to protest human rights abuse, is that political? Are we not allowed to create awareness about humanitarian issues on campus? Are we not supposed to have a discourse on the socio-economic-political issues our society is riddled with?” the student asked.
Impact On Academic Freedom And Humanities Department
Students from the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Department are particularly concerned about hindrances in their academic research. They perceive the guidelines as a direct assault on their academic pursuits, questioning the relevance of a department that cannot critically engage with socio-political events. The guidelines’ imposition has also led to the cancellation of significant academic events, evoking dismay among students.
“The institute has said students shouldn’t do something that brings it shame or tarnishes its relationship with a state or central government. In my opinion, this is a very patriarchal point of view,” a student said.
The guidelines mandate event organization through recognized student councils, perceived by some students as indirectly chosen by the administration, compromising the democratic process. Despite encouragement to address grievances through internal committees, students express disillusionment, citing a lack of resolution over pertinent issues raised in the past year, including caste discrimination, mental health, and fee hikes.
“This is a direct attack of the right wing against the HSS Department. How will they carry out their research? The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) evaluates various government policies. What is the point of this department if students cannot criticise?” one student said.
“Last year this time, an event called Cultures of the Political Left was organised by the HSS Department. It was a two-day-long conference but was cancelled last minute after IIT B for Bharat objected to it. They had then demanded the shutdown of the department itself,” the student said.
IIT Bombay’s interim guidelines, aimed at preserving an apolitical environment, have ignited significant concerns among students, triggering debates on academic freedom, freedom of expression, and the institution’s role in facilitating open discussions. The discontent among students highlights the need for a delicate balance between maintaining institutional decorum and fostering an environment conducive to academic exploration and societal engagement.
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