TISS admin serves show cause memo to the protesting students
May 22, 2018
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) – Mumbai was in the news recently after it issued show cause memos to over 20 students. According to the memo, the students had seven days to submit their response, failing which the institute would initiate disciplinary action against them for participating in the students strike demanding reinstatement of scholarships for students from backward communities. One of the students who was sent the memo responds to the charges.
The TISS administration has issued memos against 26 protesting studentson charges of vandalism, obstruction, indiscipline, and misconduct. The intent of this memo is to suppress the recent student proteststhat have erupted in the TISS (Mumbai) campus. I am one of these students. The administration has demanded an explanation by 25 May 2018 (after which they will initiate disciplinary action against the students), calling this “an opportunity commensurate with the principles of natural justice.”
The tone of the memo issued is patronising, to say the least. It has chargeduson multiple counts without giving any proof or explanation for their claims. The institute has pulled us up for participating in a democratic protest. Through these student protests and agitation, we were trying to protect the policies of affirmative action that enable students from deprived communities to access higher education. The administration has repeatedly branded the protesting students as vandals for “indulging in unlawful activities.”
The memo issued has criticised the students for violating the “Honor Code.”They are referring to an undertaking that the students are required to submit at the time of admission, agreeing to abide by the rules and regulations of the TISS campus.They have resorted to using the “Honor Code” as an instrument to subdue the ongoing student protest, which stands at its 90h day today. I would like to highlight a few points raised in the memo issued by the registrar against the protesting students.
The memo has accused the students of “indiscipline and misconduct by unauthorised trespassing into the Registrar’s office, illegally and forcibly occupying the office of the Registrar from 23rd March 2018 afternoon till early morning of 24th March 2018.” The memo has completely decontextualised the incident and the events leading upto the occupation.
In 2014, after the Maharashtra state government announced in 2014 that they will no longer be proving the Government of India Post Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS), the administration withdrew the scholarships to students from Other Backward Castes (OBC), Denotified Tribes/ Notified Tribes (DT/NT), and Special Backward Classes (SBS). However, in a letter issued to the institute in 2015 by the director of DT/NT, OBC and SBC welfare, the Maharashtra state government noted that the OBC students enrolled in the 28 courses at TISS were eligible to apply for the scholarship. However, the administration withheld this notification from the students and potential applicants for 2 years. When the students demanded an explanation for this, the institute’s administration turned mute. In response, the students peacefully occupied the central lobby of the registrar’s office, demanding an explanation for why the notification was withheld for 2 years.
Second, the memo has rebuked its students for conducting public lectures at the main gate, the protest site, which we call “Veli wada.” This isn’t a surprise, considering that the administration has repeatedly accused the students of “[creating] obstructions” by “conducting public lectures/ talks/ cultural events at the main gate.” What the administration is calling an “obstruction” are lectures by professors, activists, and various political cultural groups who were invited to the institute to discuss the importance of social justice; inclusive education systems, and affirmative action policies such as fundamental rights of the citizens of this country.Participating in these public lectures has been an emancipatory, empowering, and enlightening experience for students. The lectures have only emboldened our resolve to continue the struggle against this brahmanical administration. The administration has denied the students their rights to access equitable education and are now harassing and threatening the students by individually targeting a select few students and initiating action against them.
TISS has a history of being an apolitical space. During my orientation, one of the students asked the ex-director why there were rigid restrictions on graffiti or any other kind of expression on the walls of the campus. The director replied saying, “We are students, and our job is to study, get a degree and get a job. We are not like other institutes.We are not here to do politics”. This clearly shows the administration's limited understanding of, and abhorrence for, student politics. The administration is bent on ensuring that this does not change. It forbids its students from expressing their views. If the students refuse to comply, it does everything to curb the students’ activities. This memo is a reflectionof the administration’s efforts to sabotage a culture of resistance that is starting to take shape on campus.
The administration has been indulging in these coercive acts by targeting and witch-hunting students. They have backtracked on their assurances to work towards a sustainable solution to resolve the matter and have also dodged occasions to engage with the protesting students to arrive at a solution. This is in spite of a High Court Order that asked the administration to engage with the protesting students. They have refrained from sharing financial details regarding the hostel and dining hall expenditures. Several RTIs filed over the course of the protest are still pending. The SC Commission’s hearing on 17 May recommended that the administration refrain from taking any disciplinary action against the protesting students. The administration, of course, has not responded to this.
A copy of the memo can be read here:Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.
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