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The Fight isn’t Over: TISS strike enters 14th day despite Admin apathy and manipulations

Aaghaaz 06 Mar 2018

History is being created at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), as the students of all four campuses at Mumbai, Tuljapur (Maharashtra), Guwahati and Hyderabad have been on strike since 21st February 2018. In a militant display of student assertion, the student community has boycotted classes, blocked gates and administration blocks, gheraoed administration officials, mobilised faculty and alumni support and obtained the solidarity and backing of the student community and civil society from many parts of the country and even from universities abroad.


The militancy on display and the support garnered is largely due to the justness of the issues being raised by the students – issues affecting the most marginalised sections of the students – the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Caste (SC, ST and OBC) students and those from poorer backgrounds who are unable to afford the constantly rising fees of this elite institution. (Another article in this issue in Print by Ajmal Khan details the policies and practices of the Central and State governments and the TISS administration that have led to the demands of the present agitation)


t1
 
Demands of the Students
The demands of the strike placed before the TISS administration in a letter of TISS-Students Union (TISS-SU) dated 25th February 2018 are:
  1. Immediate retraction of the notification of the administration that all GOI-PMS (Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship) 2016-18 and 2017-19 should pay Fees (Tuition, Dining Hall and Hostel fees)
  2. Immediate rollback of the notification for payment of fees by GOI-PMS 2018-20 batch students from the website
  3. Scholarship/Waiver applicable to GOI-PMS SC and GOI-PMS ST students should be applied to GOI-PMS OBC students also
  4. Deal with the concerns of students with disability
  5. Exemption of Dining Hall and Hostel fees for students of the BA MA integrated programme of the Off Campuses from 2015 onwards
  6. Symbolic representation of the Office of Dean SPO (Student Protection Office) from SC ST OBC category
  7. No punitive action be taken against students, individually or collectively
During the course of the strike, a memorandum from the TISS-SU was presented on 28th February 2018 to Thawar Chand Gehlot, the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, which raised the following demands:
  1. Increase the amount of the GOI-PMS Scholarship to the SC/ST and OBC NC ( for B.A./M.A./M.Phil and Ph.D.) as per the expenses made by institute on each student and disburse it in advance
  2. Write a letter to the head of the institute, TISS Mumbai requesting to continue the support to all GOI-PMS students and support the institute across all campuses (Mumbai, Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Guwahati) for all the courses with reference to the students from SC/ST and OBC NC ( B.A./M.A./M.Phil and PhD).
  3. Issue guidelines to all the universities including TISS to set up an SC, ST, and OBC Cell/Student Protection Office with the appointment of licensing officer/Dean who must belong to SC/ST/OBC category to prevent discrimination against SC/ST or OBC students at the University/Institute.
  4. Uniform income ceiling should be implemented throughout the states for the scholarship, as the prescribed Rs. 2.5 Lakhs ceiling by Union Government is not followed by every state.
  5. All the OBC NC students get 100% scholarship.
  6. Special attention of the ministry to the lives of the students particularly belonging to the SC/ST and OBC.
  7. Fellowship notifications for the RJNF (SC/ST/OBC) and Maulana Azad fellowships for the M.Phil and PhD students from SC/ST/OBC and Minorities should be issued on time and  the fellowships should be disbursed on time.
  8.  
t2

Students’ Unity and Struggle
As is amply clear from the above demands, the focus of the demands concerned the rights of the most marginalised student sections. However all the students spread over all four campuses came out in united action. What was initially a call by the TISS Students Union (SU) for a one day University Strike Across TISS campuses on 21st February, 2018 swiftly built up into an indefinite struggle for the implementation of the above demands.
These demands had been under discussion over some years with various committees of the SU, but were merely dragging on without any solution in sight. Once the call for agitation was given, the mass of students quickly swung into action with the determination not to retreat unless the demands were conceded.

Tactics of TISS Administration
In the face of such determination from the students, the TISS administration started using several means direct, as well as devious, to derail the students movement. The former Director, S. Parasuraman, came out on the first night itself to address the students with the sole intent of forcing them into submission. Without making the slightest attempt at dialogue with the students, he announced that a favour had been done to them for the last fourteen years. He warned of ‘serious trouble’ and threatened the students with withholding of degrees and denial of jobs. His efforts bore no fruit and only earned him the jeers and boos of the students.

t3

Meanwhile a systematic misinformation campaign was kept up by the administration. The genuine problems of the students were presented as baseless claims. The spontaneous upsurge of the student body was attempted to be shown to be the creation of a motivated elements with ulterior political ambitions. These tactics too proved of no consequence before the unity of the students.

Opportunism and Betrayal by a section of Student Union leadership

The next move was to create a division among the students by co-opting an opportunist section of the SU leadership. It appears as if some of the union office bearers had, from the start of the agitation, maintained a covert alliance with the administration, with the aim of keeping the doors open for some kind of compromise. This was resisted by the General Body of the students, who refused to accept closed door negotiations with a select few, and demanded that the administration state their position before the General Body.

When the administration was unable to convince the General Body in any way, they started overtly using other channels (read agents) in the student body to spread confusion and divisions and breakdown the students resistance. The betrayers even went to the extent of signing an ‘agreement’, which was used by the administration to declare that the strike had been ‘called off’ by them.

These betrayers landed themselves in the unenviable position of being rejected outright, not only by the students of TISS-Mumbai, but also by those of the other campuses. The extent of their pure arrogance and opportunism could be seen in the fact that they had attempted to ‘sign’ away the strike without consulting either the students they were supposed to be representing or the representatives of the other campuses whom they had called on strike in the first place.

t5

Fig leaf of Social Justice phraseology
The tragedy of this betrayal is compounded by the fact that some of the people who betrayed this organic movement of the students, unfortunately, had earlier claimed to uphold Ambedkar. But it is now clear that they actually hide their politics of convenience in radical Ambedkarite phraseology of social justice and annihilation of caste.
 
 While claiming to fight for the oppressed, all they were doing was holding closed door meetings with TISS administration. It appears that, in a tradition true to the hypocrisy of academic institutions, caste and social inequality only exists for them in text books and research papers. Because as soon as things started getting serious and required the Students’ Union leadership to take a stand between the status quo and the oppressed, they clearly chose to side by the status quo, and in no uncertain terms. Are they not aware that rights were won on the streets? Did not lectures on social movement teach them that the road to social justice was long, tedious and required some sacrifice of convenience? Did they not think, for a minute, that what will be the face of the institute if students from really marginalized backgrounds had no support to enter and sustain in an institution like this? The least they could have done, even if they wanted to withdraw from the fight themselves, would have been to stay quiet and not try to sabotage a movement that has, on numerous number of occasions, shown the mandate of the students! Highly unfortunate that today, they have come to even issue threats to struggling students, as apparent in the below note,
“Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Student’s Union 2017-18
 Mumbai ·
Dear all,
This is regarding the mass circulation of a post titled “CHALO TISS” proposed to be taking place on 5th March 2018 at TISS Main Campus Gate. We, the Students’ Union 2017-18, want to *clarify that this message is in no way endorsed by the union*. A highly politicized narrative of TISS Strike has been circulated by some people to mislead the issues of demands. It’s our humble request to anyone concerned to not attend the said eventIn case of any conflict, TISS Students’ Union will not be responsible for the same. We as Students’ Union 2017-18, condemn the event and the act. It must be further noted that we are happy to see the kind of support the Students’ body has given and also, appreciate and acknowledge, the historic win achieved during the protest.
– TISS Students’Union 2017-18”
 This step has been strongly condemned in sharp words by different ideological factions on the campus upholding left and Ambedkarite politics (especially students who emphasised that they weren’t associated with ASA) and by students belonging to different sections such as SCs, STs, OBCs, Religious, Ethnic and other minorities belonging to various oppressed classes.

 While the students of all campuses are determined to march ahead to achieving their demands, the fifth columnists in their ranks are plotting to break the back of the movement. Movements are our own road to self discovery and emancipation, movements bring people together, movements suggest a way into the future. The success of a movement is not easy to judge, it is not a cricket match.

What matters is the willingness of the people to take it through to the end. And this time, the students have clearly said, “The Fight is not Over until it’s Over!”

This article was first published on Aaghaaz
 

The Fight isn’t Over: TISS strike enters 14th day despite Admin apathy and manipulations

History is being created at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), as the students of all four campuses at Mumbai, Tuljapur (Maharashtra), Guwahati and Hyderabad have been on strike since 21st February 2018. In a militant display of student assertion, the student community has boycotted classes, blocked gates and administration blocks, gheraoed administration officials, mobilised faculty and alumni support and obtained the solidarity and backing of the student community and civil society from many parts of the country and even from universities abroad.


The militancy on display and the support garnered is largely due to the justness of the issues being raised by the students – issues affecting the most marginalised sections of the students – the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Caste (SC, ST and OBC) students and those from poorer backgrounds who are unable to afford the constantly rising fees of this elite institution. (Another article in this issue in Print by Ajmal Khan details the policies and practices of the Central and State governments and the TISS administration that have led to the demands of the present agitation)


t1
 
Demands of the Students
The demands of the strike placed before the TISS administration in a letter of TISS-Students Union (TISS-SU) dated 25th February 2018 are:
  1. Immediate retraction of the notification of the administration that all GOI-PMS (Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship) 2016-18 and 2017-19 should pay Fees (Tuition, Dining Hall and Hostel fees)
  2. Immediate rollback of the notification for payment of fees by GOI-PMS 2018-20 batch students from the website
  3. Scholarship/Waiver applicable to GOI-PMS SC and GOI-PMS ST students should be applied to GOI-PMS OBC students also
  4. Deal with the concerns of students with disability
  5. Exemption of Dining Hall and Hostel fees for students of the BA MA integrated programme of the Off Campuses from 2015 onwards
  6. Symbolic representation of the Office of Dean SPO (Student Protection Office) from SC ST OBC category
  7. No punitive action be taken against students, individually or collectively
During the course of the strike, a memorandum from the TISS-SU was presented on 28th February 2018 to Thawar Chand Gehlot, the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, which raised the following demands:
  1. Increase the amount of the GOI-PMS Scholarship to the SC/ST and OBC NC ( for B.A./M.A./M.Phil and Ph.D.) as per the expenses made by institute on each student and disburse it in advance
  2. Write a letter to the head of the institute, TISS Mumbai requesting to continue the support to all GOI-PMS students and support the institute across all campuses (Mumbai, Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Guwahati) for all the courses with reference to the students from SC/ST and OBC NC ( B.A./M.A./M.Phil and PhD).
  3. Issue guidelines to all the universities including TISS to set up an SC, ST, and OBC Cell/Student Protection Office with the appointment of licensing officer/Dean who must belong to SC/ST/OBC category to prevent discrimination against SC/ST or OBC students at the University/Institute.
  4. Uniform income ceiling should be implemented throughout the states for the scholarship, as the prescribed Rs. 2.5 Lakhs ceiling by Union Government is not followed by every state.
  5. All the OBC NC students get 100% scholarship.
  6. Special attention of the ministry to the lives of the students particularly belonging to the SC/ST and OBC.
  7. Fellowship notifications for the RJNF (SC/ST/OBC) and Maulana Azad fellowships for the M.Phil and PhD students from SC/ST/OBC and Minorities should be issued on time and  the fellowships should be disbursed on time.
  8.  
t2

Students’ Unity and Struggle
As is amply clear from the above demands, the focus of the demands concerned the rights of the most marginalised student sections. However all the students spread over all four campuses came out in united action. What was initially a call by the TISS Students Union (SU) for a one day University Strike Across TISS campuses on 21st February, 2018 swiftly built up into an indefinite struggle for the implementation of the above demands.
These demands had been under discussion over some years with various committees of the SU, but were merely dragging on without any solution in sight. Once the call for agitation was given, the mass of students quickly swung into action with the determination not to retreat unless the demands were conceded.

Tactics of TISS Administration
In the face of such determination from the students, the TISS administration started using several means direct, as well as devious, to derail the students movement. The former Director, S. Parasuraman, came out on the first night itself to address the students with the sole intent of forcing them into submission. Without making the slightest attempt at dialogue with the students, he announced that a favour had been done to them for the last fourteen years. He warned of ‘serious trouble’ and threatened the students with withholding of degrees and denial of jobs. His efforts bore no fruit and only earned him the jeers and boos of the students.

t3

Meanwhile a systematic misinformation campaign was kept up by the administration. The genuine problems of the students were presented as baseless claims. The spontaneous upsurge of the student body was attempted to be shown to be the creation of a motivated elements with ulterior political ambitions. These tactics too proved of no consequence before the unity of the students.

Opportunism and Betrayal by a section of Student Union leadership

The next move was to create a division among the students by co-opting an opportunist section of the SU leadership. It appears as if some of the union office bearers had, from the start of the agitation, maintained a covert alliance with the administration, with the aim of keeping the doors open for some kind of compromise. This was resisted by the General Body of the students, who refused to accept closed door negotiations with a select few, and demanded that the administration state their position before the General Body.

When the administration was unable to convince the General Body in any way, they started overtly using other channels (read agents) in the student body to spread confusion and divisions and breakdown the students resistance. The betrayers even went to the extent of signing an ‘agreement’, which was used by the administration to declare that the strike had been ‘called off’ by them.

These betrayers landed themselves in the unenviable position of being rejected outright, not only by the students of TISS-Mumbai, but also by those of the other campuses. The extent of their pure arrogance and opportunism could be seen in the fact that they had attempted to ‘sign’ away the strike without consulting either the students they were supposed to be representing or the representatives of the other campuses whom they had called on strike in the first place.

t5

Fig leaf of Social Justice phraseology
The tragedy of this betrayal is compounded by the fact that some of the people who betrayed this organic movement of the students, unfortunately, had earlier claimed to uphold Ambedkar. But it is now clear that they actually hide their politics of convenience in radical Ambedkarite phraseology of social justice and annihilation of caste.
 
 While claiming to fight for the oppressed, all they were doing was holding closed door meetings with TISS administration. It appears that, in a tradition true to the hypocrisy of academic institutions, caste and social inequality only exists for them in text books and research papers. Because as soon as things started getting serious and required the Students’ Union leadership to take a stand between the status quo and the oppressed, they clearly chose to side by the status quo, and in no uncertain terms. Are they not aware that rights were won on the streets? Did not lectures on social movement teach them that the road to social justice was long, tedious and required some sacrifice of convenience? Did they not think, for a minute, that what will be the face of the institute if students from really marginalized backgrounds had no support to enter and sustain in an institution like this? The least they could have done, even if they wanted to withdraw from the fight themselves, would have been to stay quiet and not try to sabotage a movement that has, on numerous number of occasions, shown the mandate of the students! Highly unfortunate that today, they have come to even issue threats to struggling students, as apparent in the below note,
“Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Student’s Union 2017-18
 Mumbai ·
Dear all,
This is regarding the mass circulation of a post titled “CHALO TISS” proposed to be taking place on 5th March 2018 at TISS Main Campus Gate. We, the Students’ Union 2017-18, want to *clarify that this message is in no way endorsed by the union*. A highly politicized narrative of TISS Strike has been circulated by some people to mislead the issues of demands. It’s our humble request to anyone concerned to not attend the said eventIn case of any conflict, TISS Students’ Union will not be responsible for the same. We as Students’ Union 2017-18, condemn the event and the act. It must be further noted that we are happy to see the kind of support the Students’ body has given and also, appreciate and acknowledge, the historic win achieved during the protest.
– TISS Students’Union 2017-18”
 This step has been strongly condemned in sharp words by different ideological factions on the campus upholding left and Ambedkarite politics (especially students who emphasised that they weren’t associated with ASA) and by students belonging to different sections such as SCs, STs, OBCs, Religious, Ethnic and other minorities belonging to various oppressed classes.

 While the students of all campuses are determined to march ahead to achieving their demands, the fifth columnists in their ranks are plotting to break the back of the movement. Movements are our own road to self discovery and emancipation, movements bring people together, movements suggest a way into the future. The success of a movement is not easy to judge, it is not a cricket match.

What matters is the willingness of the people to take it through to the end. And this time, the students have clearly said, “The Fight is not Over until it’s Over!”

This article was first published on Aaghaaz
 

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