ot long ago, a group of women were banned from wearing hijabs in the classroom in the state of Karnataka under the guise of ensuring that “religion does not enter the classrooms.” And today, we see majoritarianism in the garb of religion entering every classroom and every corner of one of the most prestigious colleges in India, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B). As the “inauguration” of the Ayodhya structure comes close, with the union government going all out to ensure involvement of all citizens (union government employees being given a holiday, RBI closing financial dealings and markets!) and with “celebrations” being imposed on Monday, January 22, news has surfaced that the IIT Bombay administration is organising a series of events on campus related to the Ram temple ceremony. These events include a ‘Shriram Darbar Shobha Yatra’, a musical event called ‘Ramdhun’ inspired by the Geet Ramayan and the inauguration of a ‘Gaushala’ on the campus!
According to multiple media reports, huge banners and posters have cropped up along the campus showing that a religious procession named “Shriram darbar shobha yatra” will be organised on January 21. In addition to this, an email sent by the institute’s administration to all students and residents on campus on January 17 announced a musical event titled “Ramdhun”, inspired by the Geet Ramayan, is scheduled for January 20 at the IDC auditorium within the campus.
The poster may be seen here.
As per a report of News18, the said email sent by the institute’s public relation office read “It is a pleasure to share the announcement with you of a program, based on the celebrated ‘Geet Ramayan’, on coming Saturday, January 20 at 4:30pm in the IDC auditorium…The program ‘Ramdhun’, will present a selection of songs from ‘Geet Ramayan’ together with some ‘Ram Bhajans’. The performers are from IIT-B community, including the spouses and children of staff and faculty members as well as some students. Hoping to see many of you in the program.” The News18 report also provided that when their team contacted the institute’s spokesperson on the events, they denied holding any event officially.
The email may be viewed here:
The said events end with a gaushala being inaugurated on the campus on the day of the consecration ceremony of the structure in Ayodhya on January 22 by IIT Bombay’s Director, Subhasis Chaudhuri. As per the News18 report, another email approved by the administration addressed to campus residents on January 19 said that IIT-Bombay’s director Subhasis Chaudhuri will be inaugurating a gaushala on January 22. As per the internal event invitation, Ashwini Bhide, additional municipal commissioner, will be the chief guest at the inauguration.
According to News18, “The inauguration ceremony for the new gaushala is scheduled for January 22, 2024 (Monday)… Ashwini Bhide AMC (BMC) and Prof Subhasis Chaudhuri, director, IIT-B will be inaugurating it…”
News 18 is a channel owned by the Ambanis and is one electronic media outlet that has seen aggressive overtones of majoritarian reportage.
An internal invite email by Sudhir Shantaram Bhave, on behalf of the IIT-B cattle management committee stated: “As you all can witness, our campus, streets, grounds, academic, hostel and residential areas and various other activity locations are now free from uncontrolled cattle movement. This has become possible through the dedicated efforts of the committee in collaboration with the Cattle Welfare Group (CWG) and an esteemed NGO. This initiative of the institute, creating dedicated shelters and arrangements, helped in the enhanced management of cattle movement and the mitigation of cattle-human conflict. Since December 2019, gaushala activities have been managed in temporary sheds, albeit with certain limitations. It is with great pleasure that we announce the completion of our new improved gaushala in the picturesque lakeside area behind the Devi Padmavati temple. This milestone project marks a significant step forward in our commitment to the welfare of our campus environment.” According to the email, Gopal Rai, an IIT-B alumnus, and his construction company, Dhirendra Group of Companies (DGC) helped make the gaushala a reality. The said cowshed will a permanent gaushala behind the Padmavati temple near the campus’s lakeside.
The email may be read here:
Notably, in the third email shared on January 19, the institute announced a half-day closure on January 22, as per instructions by central government, till 2:30 PM.
These aforementioned events being organised at campus has attracted severe criticism. In response to these developments, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, a student collective at IIT Bombay, has raised concerns with the increasing alignment of the institute with “Hindutva political forces”, compromising its commitment to the values of secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
The group also condemned what they perceive as the institute’s submission to right-wing political forces while suppressing activities of independent student collectives, shedding light on the use of contradicting “apolitical” guidelines to cancel academic talks and gatherings. As per these guidelines, which were issued on November 14, 2023, students and faculty are only allowed to only organise “apolitical” events at the campus.
The guidelines may be read here:
“The institute had very recently declared that it shall ‘remain apolitical in all its endeavours’ and has been using the new guidelines to cancel and censor several academic talks and gatherings on campus. It is shocking that the institute allowed such politically-aligned events to be organised while inviting all campus residents to it. The institute bows down to political forces while on the other hand it continues to suppress any activity by the independent student collectives,” said APPSC on their post on social media.
The guidelines for holding events on campus stated that these may be classified in two categories – “purely non-political’ and “potentially political”. The latter can cause socio-political controversies and must be avoided, it said.
The social media post of APPSC stated the follows:
“A line of events being carried out on campus by the IITB administration shows that it has started crawling in front of Hindutva political forces, giving up on the principle of Secularism in the Indian Constitution.
The institute has reportedly given permission to a procession called “Shriram darbar shobha yatra” happening on 21st January in campus. The Director will be inaugurating a Goshala on 22nd. Another musical event called “Ramdhun” will be happening on 20th.
Very recently though the institute had declared that its shall “remain apolitical in all its endeavors,” and has been using the new guidelines to cancel and censor several academic talks and gatherings on campus.
We condemn the surrender of this institute in front of the right-wing political forces while on the other hand it continues to suppress any activity by the independent student collectives.”
The post may be read here:
A line of events being carried out on campus by the @iitbombay administration shows that it has started crawling in front of Hindutva political forces, giving up on the principle of Secularism in the Indian Constitution. pic.twitter.com/DunAwQ8SEg
— APPSC IIT Bombay (@AppscIITb) January 19, 2024
Another highly regarded educational institute of Mumbai, namely the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has taken adverse and unconstitutional steps in view of the approaching inauguration ceremony of Uttar Pradesh. As per a report of Maktoob media, a notice has been issued by the registrar of TISS Mumbai restricting their right to freedom of expression and speech, asking the students to not organise or participate in any public program opposing the Ram temple consecration.
The circular, which was published on January 18, stated that the administration had decided to officially prevent any such activities after having heard that a group of students were planning to protest against the Ram temple event as per Maktoob media. Students have been asked to refrain from any gatherings of dissent failing which the “law-enforcing agency” will take action against those who violate the warning.
“We advise all students not to indulge in any such unauthorised activities and we also strictly warn students not to participate in any such activities or demonstrations, failing which the law-enforcing agency will take necessary action against those students found indulging in such activities. Please take urgent note of the same and take care of yourself,” the notice read, as per the Times of India.