The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Hyderabad) has been witnessing a series of protests since Saturday, demanding an independent Students’ election.
Students are protesting the institute's decision to hold an 'indirect election' which means only 17 class representative will elect a 7-member panel instead of all students electing their representatives for the student's council.
Students allege that this is against the Lyngdoh guidelines, which the institute has been following until 2015. Claiming that the institute is attempting to subvert the student council elections by introducing an "exclusive" method, around 150 students gathered at the administration building and protested raising slogans against the administration, on Tuesday.
Speaking to TNM one of the protesting students said, on conditions of anonymity, "Till 2015 the institute conducted ‘direct elections’, where all students elect their representatives for the Students’ Council. But now they want to make those representation very exclusive," he said.
Students allege that the administration is curtailing democracy of the students with its veiled attempt to not conduct a fair election, as per the Lyngdoh commission.
"If they go by indirect elections it will be an unfair thing as it will only allow 17 people to elect 7 members who will become nominees in the academic council which will take decisions with respect to all of us," another student pointed out.
Students also conducted a referendum on Monday which revealed that more than 78% of students favoured direct elections.
"This is a violation of the Lyngdoh committee reports. In the name of academics they want to install an admin-friendly council," a student from a Master's degree programme said,"
The class representatives, who will be the only ones to vote under the new election rules, are often elected based on academic merit. Students say only the class representatives having voting power is undemocratic as they might not represent everyone's interest.
"Who are class representatives? How will the so-called merit students address issues other than academics? For instance, the institute has not issued laptops to eligible candidates yet. Will they be able to sort this out with the administration," a student said.
However, the university appears to have decided to go ahead with its decision to hold indirect elections.
Speaking to TNM, TISS Hyderabad, Student Affairs Chair Person, Dr Amit Upadhyay said, "Prof PK Shajahan, Dean of Student Affairs held talks with approximately 100 and above students where he briefed the way Lyngdoh committee reports will be implemented. As students didn't agree the meeting ended indecisively."
A student who attended the talk said, "They said they will review the indirect elections for two years and endorse the direct elections. Isn't this a violation of the Lyngdoh committee reports?"
According to students, TISS is planning to release the student council election notification by August 16.
In a written response that was posted on the institutes’s notice board on Thursday, the Director/Vice Chancellor of TISS, S Parasuraman acknowledges having received a collective representative from 97 students. In the letter addressed to students, Parasuraman writes that the method of forming a representative body of students in three off-campuses is consistent with Lyngdoh Committee recommendations approved by the Supreme Court.
“We have made this decision for all the three off-campuses—Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Guwahati—in compliance of the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations and also taking the specific conditions of our campuses. This procedure will be operational for 3 to 5 years and will be subjected to review as per the guidelines on the matter,” Parasuraman writes.
“We fail to understand how the insistence on direct election to the students’ council is anyway going to help in addressing issues we are facing in ensuring quality higher education to all our students enrolled in the campus,” he further adds.
While defending the institute’s decision to go ahead with an indirect election he also sends out a warning to the students opposed to the decision.
“We must warn you that the unrest being created by a section of the students is going to put the education of all the students who come here to study and thus placing further progress in their careers into serious jeopardy,” Parasuraman writes
“..We advise that do not push us too much forcing us to take harsh steps to ensure that our commitment to the entire student community is fulfilled and remain accountable to the public money we spending on education. We do not get the students to rusticate them for unruly behaviour. If such an unruly situation is created, we will not hesitate to take necessary action,” he writes.
He ends the letter saying, “In essence we conclude that there is no way the Hyderabad campus will be permitted to elect a student union, but essentially that can have a body constituted by class representative,”