The institution has claimed that it is not allowing ‘outsiders’ in for student-organised events at this time.
An entrance to TISS. Photo: Facebook/Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations scrapped after TISS Mumbai denies entry to Sujat Ambedkar
The Ambedkarite Students’ Association at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai announced in a press statement on April 14 that the administration had permitted Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations to take place, but denied entry to ‘outsiders’.Sujat Ambedkar/ Facebook news Caste Thursday, April 14, 2022 –
The Ambedkarite Students’ Association (ASA) at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, released a statement to the press announcing that they were forced to call off the Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations that were scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 14. Journalist Sujat Ambedkar, the great grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, was invited as the guest for the celebrations but was denied entry into the campus by the administration on Thursday after he reached the venue.
Ilaiyaraaja, a member of ASA at TISS, says, “We had submitted the application on April 8. The administration responded saying that we can conduct the event. However, they mentioned that no outsiders will be permitted. We believed they were referring to other attendees who are not from TISS, not that they would deem the guest as an ‘outsider,’” he said. Ilaiyaaraja added, “As per the protocol, the application is reviewed within five days by the administration. In this case, the administration had already permitted students to conduct the event, but had not given permission for the guest to enter the campus.”
The press release issued by ASA on Thursday also cites that other events such as the ‘State of India Education Report Launch’ on April 6, and the ‘Service Training Programme for 20 All India Service Officers on Social Policy and Governance’ from March 21 to 25, were held on the campus wherein members from outside the campus were in attendance. “The authorities also approved Holi celebrations on campus ground,” the statement read. It is to be noted that the Maharashtra government announced that all curbs related to COVID-19 would be lifted from April 2 in the state.
Ilaiyaraaja points out that although students had further appealed to the DSA, director and registrar at TISS, they did not hear back from the DSA and registrar. “The director had responded to our email but the decision to not permit ‘outsiders’ was not changed,” Ilaiyaraaja tells TNM.
“To not allow Mr Sujat Ambedkar, the great grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on his Jayanti Celebration, despite him making time for the institute, without providing any reason for the same, is a deeply humiliating, discriminatory and casteist practice against the entire Dalit community. The Ambedkarite Students Association conducted a meeting and collectively concluded that in order to offer the last shred of respect to Mr Sujat Ambedkar, we have no choice but to cancel the entire event. We, the students from marginalised communities, think that to not allow Dr Ambedkar’s family member on campus is a modern form of untouchability being practised,” the statement read.
Accroding to Dean of students’ affairs, Asha Banu, at standard procedure was followed for consideration of requests from students for organising events at the institute.
“Regarding the matter related to Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations, The institute has granted permission for the event and the only condition was that no outsiders are allowed. This has been communicated to the students representatives,” Banu said.
Banu did not clarify whether COVID-19 was the only concern due to which the “no outsiders” rule had been put in place.
ASA members have asked how it was – if COVID-19 concerns prevented admin from green-lighting the guest – that “outsiders” have entered and attended functions at the campus in the last month itself.
From battling casteist abuse to other forms of discrimination, students from marginalised communities have spoken about caste-based discrimination practiced in educational institutitions in the country. Videos of a Humanities professor, Seema Singh, from IIT Kharagpur, hurling abuses at students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes at the English class she was teaching, went viral in 2021.
Another example is Kerala-based PhD scholar Deepa Mohanan’s hunger strike to call out casteism in academia. Deepa told TNM in November last year that Nandakumar Kalarickal, the director at International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), had stopped her from accessing the chemicals and polymers in the laboratory, denied her seating at the workplace, worked to block her stipend, and had locked her alone inside the lab once. Deepa had also alleged that he has been rude and abusive towards her, the only Dalit scholar in her batch, and has generally done everything in his power to ensure Deepa doesn’t get her PhD on time.
“Several ‘outsiders’ have entered the campus in previous weeks for the State of India Education Report Launch on April 6 and the Service Training Programme for 20 All India Service Officers on Social Policy and Governance from March 21-25. The authorities also approved Holi celebrations on campus grounds, a festival that viewed from the anti-caste perspective celebrates the burning of a Bahujan woman,” the ASA has alleged.
When asked about this claim, Banu said students “cannot equate student events with the mandated academic activity that a University is expected to conduct.” She added, “Moreover there are only a very few students in the campus and no students union is in place.”
Students have said that appeals to the Dean of Student Affairs, Director and Registrar went unheard. “The administration refused to use his name in official communication, solely reiterating that no outsiders were to be allowed and not providing any reasons for such rules,” the ASA said.
Banu has sought to impress that there was no discrimination involved but an imposition of policy.
“That [the administration refusing to use Sujat Ambedkar’s name] is exactly the point, it is not about any individual, it’s about a process we follow across the board in the absence of a students’ union,” she said.
Non-teaching staff were disallowed from using the public quadrangle for celebrations and instead allotted a secluded classroom, the students have alleged. The dean of students’ affairs has professed no knowledge of such a dictum.
The ASA has called the admin’s move to deny permission to Ambedkar “deeply humiliating, discriminatory and casteist” and one that goes “against the entire Dalit community.”
“We the students from marginalised communities think that to not allow Dr. Ambedkar’s family member on campus is a modern form of untouchability being practised,” they said.
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