In a major move, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) decided to suspend all academic activities on its Hyderabad Campus 'sine-die' with immediate effect until further orders. This means that there is no date for the resumption of academic activities specified. All the students were asked to vacate the campus latest by 5 pm on Monday.
This came after several protests by several students over the last few days, including an ongoing hunger strike, over the change in hostel and mess fee structures. Speaking to TNM, Professor Vindhya, TISS Hyderabad's Acting Deputy Director said, "The students have been denying us entry from the past one week. We had a meeting with them and said that we can't have talks in this kind of an atmosphere. So, our Mumbai administration has suspended academic activity indefinitely."
"Indefinite closure has been declared and the campus will reopen once normalcy is restored," she added.
With the campus being shifted to Turkayamjal from Rajendranagar at the outskirts of Hyderabad, and the new fee structure demanding all students (including SC, ST and OBC students relying on financial aid) to pay the entire semester’s hostel and dining charges upfront, protesting students were demanding that the administration take responsibility for students with Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship (GoI PMS). The previous fee structure in place had allowed students to pay the fees in installments or as they got financial aid.
Students had also complained that the location of the girls’ hostel was unsafe, with many women facing street sexual harassment near the hostel. Students claimed that the administration has denied responsibility for their living conditions, stating that the campus is non-residential from the current academic year.
In its notice dated July 15, the University said that the protesting students had "continued with the blockade in spite of our repeated appeals and efforts to negotiate, thereby completely paralysing the functioning of the campus for the past five days."
The administration also lists out the sequence of events from July 8, when the protest escalated.
Since July 9, the administration said that students blocked the entry of faculty members into the academic block and did not allow them to conduct classes.
On July 11, the administration stated that a mail was also sent to students that they had made attempts to address their issues and "if the classes were obstructed once again, the institute would have to be closed down indefinitely."
Despite this, on July 12, the administration said that the protesting students played loud music, formed a human chain and "also lay down on the floor" to prevent the entry of faculty into the building, even allegedly heckling those who tried to enter.
"In the meantime, TISS administration approved, as interim aid, financial support of Rs 15,000 for each GOI-PMS student to pay the Service Provider for admission into the hostel. 26 GOI-PMS students are benefitting from this decision
Despite a meeting on July 14, the administration said that the deadlock continued.
"In spite of the various efforts made by the institute, the students continued their illegal, unlawful, unjustified activities and disturbances in spite of the repeated appeals of the Iistitute since July 8, 2019. The institute further apprehends that the situation many deteriorate further and there are all possibilities of disturbances within the campus," the notice states.
"In view of the continued activities, disturbances, some of which are cited above, the institute has come to conscious conclusion that it is not safe, practicable and not in the interest of all students, teaching and non-teaching staff to continue its normal academic activities within the campus," it adds.
Responding to the latest notice, a protesting student told TNM, "It is an arbitrary decision by the management. They have shut down the campus because we questioned their corrupt practices. The hostel fee of Rs 8,900 was too high for a place in Turkayamjal, which is outside the city. They have put us in peril only because we questioned them."
The Students Action Committee, an informal group created by the protesting students, is now deliberating its future course of action.