IIT-Madras Controversy: Freedom Of Speech, Flouting Institute Rules and The Logical Stand

The Logical Indian

May 31st, 2015

The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) has been at the centre of controversies and debates for the last few days. The debate was flared after the institute reportedly derecognized a students’ group named Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) following the HRD minister’s letter to the Director in response to an anonymous complaint raised by another group of students of IIT-M regarding contents of posters that the APSC allegedly circulated.

Social media are flooded with discussions in this topic. The Logical Indian goes through the arguments put forward in criticism and in favour of the ban, as follows:

1. APSC was banned by the government’s influence as it criticized the policies followed by the Modi Government. Such a move violates the fundamental rights of free speech and expression and is an attack on democracy, and reflects dictatorial attitude of the government.

2. APSC put up the posters to incite enmity and anger amongst students of different castes and religions, while the institute follows a strict policy of nondiscrimination. Recognized groups must follow certain guidelines prescribed by the Board of Students. Since the APSC violated institute norms, the institute has its full authority to derecognize the group.

Going through the lesser-publicized facts:
• The group was not banned, but was temporarily derecognized. As per the institute norms, the group will be allowed to present its stand to the Board of Students, following which the final decision will be taken.
• The IITs are autonomous institutions with their own act in the Parliament (The IIT Act, 1961). Thus the HRD minister has no direct control over the institute’s policies. Indeed, the HRD minister in her letter to the Director simply asked for the institute’s comments. It was the institute administration that decided to derecognize the group.
• The IIT-M released an official statement on Friday stating that the group was derecognized as it violated a guideline that states groups cannot use the institute’s name to publicize their activities or garner support, without official permission.

Contrary to what the mainstream media is trying to sensationalize, a logical analysis makes us realize that this event cannot simply be tagged as “the government’s attempt to suppress free speech”. The Logical Indian believes it’s too early to reach a conclusion and bash the government with only one side of the story. Instead, we should wait till the institute’s democratic students’ bodies analyze and resolve the controversy internally and let us know who was at fault.

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