Students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras have alleged arbitrary checks and moral policing by hostel authorities at the central-government aided institution.
Reaching out to the media, students who occupy the various hotels on campus have narrated stories about authorities barging into their rooms to conduct surprise checks.
Speaking to TNM, one hostel resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the unrest among students has been sparked by the discovery of used condoms at campus' Brahmaputra Hostel.
"Two weeks ago, the vigilance people (those who are authorised to conduct random raids on student hostels) entered the boys’ hostel at the Brahmaputra hostel. They found used condoms in the dustbin of one of the male students. They fined the students for this and put up a public notice in an attempt to shame the student."
A copy of the notice, accessed by TNM, charges the student for "20 nos of used cigarette butts, empty packets, matchboxes and used condoms," levying a fine of Rs 5,000 for the same.
“This is an infringement on the privacy of students. These are arbitrary checks in an attempt to police us morally. Depending on what they perceive the seriousness of the 'offence' to be, they charge between Rs 500 to Rs 10,000,” the student added.
He also adds that an attempt by a student living in the hostel to come up with guidelines for the residents was dismissed by the hostel management two years ago.
Just months earlier, students of the institution had staged a protest on campus against moral policing after a staff member had reportedly taken photographs of two students hugging on campus.
Speaking to TNM, one woman student alleged that vigilance officials would barge in random to conduct checks.
"I used to go meet my friend and we would never be there post 5 pm in his room because vigilance officials would come anytime. They would barge in, check all his stuff and click pictures. Male officers once even tried to check a female student's bag. When she refused, asking them to bring a female officer, they put false charges saying she was carrying alcohol, weed, etc. This has been happening for the past 2.5 years since I joined college. Girls’ hostel checks are, however, less in number compared to boys’ hostels. That is because boys aren't allowed into girls hostels. They usually look for condoms and threaten to inform parents if a girl stays in a guy's room. They conduct random checks after 5 pm and can come any time up to 9 pm. I feel threatened and intimidated because I know my career is at stake. There's no privacy on campus and clearly there's plenty of moral policing," she said.
When TNM contacted the institution, one official from the press office denied that the checks were arbitrary.
"The checks are as per the rules that are known to both the hostel as well as the faculty in order to ensure that rules preventing certain contraband items are enforced. Students are not allowed to use electrical and electronics items. The load-bearing capacity is set at a certain limit so there is a potential for fire hazard. Certain substances known to the students are also not allowed,” said the officer on the condition of anonymity.
The dean of students, MS Sivakumar told PTI that they had received complaints from students and then the vigilance officers were asked not to click photographs. He stated that the checks were conducted ex-servicemen trained to deal with such issues.
"Vigilance officers are the ones tasked to enforce hostel rules and check for violations. We don't know if we can call it harassment or enforcement," he told PTI.