The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai has issued a ban on all student-organised events and activities after a certain section of students announced protests on January 22 against the Ram temple inauguration in Ayodhya. The University advised students against “indulging in any such unauthorised activities” and warned them “not to participate in any such activities or demonstrations”. It also said that students participating in protest activities and/or demonstrations will face action from “the law-enforcing agency”.
The University issued the directions against protests in a notice issued on Thursday, January 18. The notice signed by the TISS’s Officiating Registrar Narendra Mishra asked all students to “take urgent note of the same and take care of [themself]”.
A doctoral student associated with the Student Federation of India (SFI) told TNM that they believe the current administration intentionally released the notice to create communal polarisation on campus. “No student groups/individuals announced any protests against the Ram mandir inauguration. Yet the TISS administration released the notice and claimed that they got to know about the plan. How? It is nothing but trying to bring religious divide among students,” they said. The student said they were unsure who the ‘law enforcing agency’ mentioned in the notice is.
In another notice issued on the same date, the University administration announced the suspension of all student organised events and activities until changes are made to the guidelines for organising events, seminars, lecture series, screening of audio visual materials, and other activities. The reasoning offered by the University for reframing the guidelines is that it is being done “in order to facilitate an inclusive participatory environment, all dialogues and debates on the campus”.
The University has excused TISS’s annual activities such as Quintessence, Literary Festival, and Institute Day that have been already planned by the Students Union from the suspension. It also said, “All activities mandated as per UGC circulars and School's Annual Seminar/Conferences like Clairvoyance, Manthan, Samiksha, etc. will be held as per the schedule.”
The notice, which was signed by Narendra Mishra as well, asked students “to refrain from conducting any activities that are in contravention to this notice until formulation of the new terms of reference and policy on events”.
The doctoral student said, “The latest notification is arbitrarily banning all student groups on campus and thereby curbing the basic right of freedom of speech.”