SC Commission forbids TISS from taking action against protesting students

Written by Sushmita | Published on: May 17, 2018
The Scheduled Caste Commission has reined in the administration of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and prevented it from taking disciplinary action against protesting students. These students have raised their voices against the sudden and arbitrary removal of scholarships and fee-waivers to those who come from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBC). But in a shocking move on May 15, the TISS administration served show-cause notices threatening disciplinary action against over twenty protesting students.

The notice said, “Acknowledging the reputation of the Institute, you had applied for the course to pursue higher studies and were admitted after following the due process of administration.” It went on to say that how, before taking admissions, students had access to its “handbook” and the Institute admitted the students after they were found to “comply with the requisite formalities.” The notice said “in spite of the assurances by the institute”, the students started TISS Bandh agitation “demanding waiver in the payment of Dining Hall charges and Hostel fees which are payable on actual basis.” The notice further accused students of indulging in “unlawful activities” alleging that the students obstructed the ‘peaceful movement’ of people and materials within the campus.

In another ridiculous allegations, TISS also accused students of “organising/participating special lectures/ talks/ cultural events at the Main gate which created obstruction…”, “obstructing the normal and peaceful movements inside campus by placing banners and posters on main roads”, obstructing the administration block etc.

Students of TISS have continued their protest for almost three months. In the course of the struggle, several other issues of mismanagement of funds, GoI-PMS scholarships etc. were highlighted by the students. Despite appeals from various democratic and progressive sections, the TISS administration refused to engage in a mature dialogue with the students. The institute has, since, indulged in various diversionary tactics so that the students end their protests. However, realising that the steps suggested by the administration can have grievous consequences for not just the current batches, but also upcoming batches making the university space more exclusionary, the students have continued their peaceful protests, urging authorities to come to the table for talks.
The students are yet to hear from the Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Caste commissions.

The students allege that in this background, the notice is nothing but, “an act of intimidation and aggression against the petitioners who have appealed to the commissions to get justice” The students say that the ‘independent’ committee constituted by the institute is “yet to interact properly” with the students.

The students believe that the said notice goes against the actions of the institute itself since it had constituted the independent committee to investigate the issue. They say that it also goes against the ruling of the Bombay City Civil Court, where the hearing is due on June 19. In its first hearing on March 28, the court had upheld students’ rights to peacefully protest for their demands. It had also advised the institute to resolve matters internally. It had suggested that students were not any long time-activists or outsiders as the institute was trying to portray.

In the statement that they released they pointed out that the administration has also back-tracked from the “Plan of Action” that it offered on March 10. They said that through a notification issued on May 6, the institute backtracked on the promises of revised fees.
The students say that rather than opening dialogue with them or coming up with a sustainable solution, the institute has resorted to intimidating tactics in order to quell their protest. The students from most marginalized sections, SCs, STs, OBCs, NT-DNTs and women are likely to get impacted by this move of the institute.

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