Monday, December 11, 2023

IIT Madras Cancelled Lectures on Social Equity , Says Guests are ‘Controversial’

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The IIT Madras Administration, led by the Dean of Students(DOST) and Faculty Advisor(Fac Ad) of National Service Scheme(NSS), cancelled the lectures of Mr. Stalin. K , Miss Nandini Sundar and Mr. Adhik Kadam which were supposed to happen in association with the NSS Foundation Day Lecture Series. The Lecture series was themed “Social Equity” and the team had appropriately invited speakers working on various spheres of social service. Mr. Stalin. K, is a highly reputed documentary filmmaker and human rights activist well known for documentaries like “India Untouched” and “Lesser Humans” which garnered international attention for it’s portrayal of caste system in India. Miss Nandini Sundar,a professor at the Delhi School of Economics, is an internationally acclaimed Academician and Social Activist, working primarily on the tribal issues in Central India. Mr. Adhik Kadam is a social entrepreneur and activist who is the chairman of Borderless World Foundation, which is an NGO that works for the deprived and victimized people of the border areas of India.

The speakers were invited and confirmed by the student team of NSS but were later rejected by the Faculty Advisor of NSS and Dean of Students. The NSS Team was not given a chance to explain the credibility of the Speakers. The team’s attempts at starting a dialogue with the Faculty Advisor and DOST on the cancellation of Speakers turned out to be futile as the Administration outrightly refused to talk about the issue. The reason cited for by the Administration to the NSS team was that the speakers are “Controversial”.The administration refused to elaborate on what they meant by “controversial”. By cancelling the lectures, the administration has made it clear that caste system, tribal issues and human rights issues associated with border tensions shouldn’t be discussed even in the platform of a social service organization like NSS. This decision by the IIT Madras Administration clearly exposes their strong ideological bias and makes clear their loyalty to Hindutva politics.

In the mail which was sent by the Faculty Advisor of NSS to Mr. Stalin, Miss Nandini Sundar and Mr. Adhik Kadam, the reason cited for cancellation was “unforeseen circumstances “ and no explanation was given on what the “unforeseen circumstances” are. In the same mail, it was claimed that the lectures will happen at a later stage. These are outright lies as the actual reason for rejection was the ideological background of the speakers and there were no plans whatsoever to postpone the lectures. This is a display of poor ethical standards by the Faculty in-charge of a reputed Service organization like NSS in an effort to hide the truth and avoid a controversy.

NSS, IIT Madras has been proactive in educating the student body about various social issues in the nation. In the last academic year, NSS had organized lectures of social workers like Bezwada Wilson and Aruna Roy. The documentary “India Untouched” which exposes the caste system in India was screened by NSS in 2015 and was received well by the audience. Now, the director of that documentary, Mr Stalin.K has been rejected by IIT Madras Administration two years down the line.

And, finally, the way in which the IITM Administration has gone about the cancellation, giving zero consideration for the pleas by the NSS Student Team raises serious questions at the nature of relation between the Faculty Advisor and the Team. Though the Faculty Advisor and DOST do have authority over the overall working of NSS in the institute, decisions can’t be made arbitrarily and they are morally obliged to engage in discussion with the Team in case of differences in opinion. True to the unfortunate times we live in, a service organization like NSS which used to have great student autonomy, is also slowly transforming to an establishment where dissent is not listened to, but silenced through power.

Source – Biyas Muhammed

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