TISS admin moves court, issues legal notices against 6 students

TISS administration has issued memos to fifteen students and legal notices to seven students urging the Bombay civil court to issue directions to protesting students to call off their strike. Students at TISS campuses across Mumbai, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Tulajpur began their strike on February 21, 2018 protesting a roll back of fee exemptions for GOI-PMS scholars. The scholarships were originally designed for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to encourage them to enter academia.

The suit named Fahad Ahmed, Shefali Saini, Ajmal Khan, Yashwant Zagade, Imran Gandhi and Joy Lakra, who have been some of the prominent faces of the movement against privatisation and fund-cuts in TISS.
Describing the legal action as an attempt to intimidate students, the general body of TISS said, “This action of the administration is gravely undemocratic and goes against the constitutional sanction of protest,”
The suit seeks directions for students to end the agitation, refrain from sloganeering, raising flags and banners within 500 metres of the TISS campus in Deonar. The institute also wants the police to investigate and book students who may have broken the law. Though this is a civil suit right now, there is an underlying threat of framing the students in false criminal cases.

The protesters have been demanding a complete waiver of hostel and dining hall fees for students from disadvantaged sections. TISS has maintained that all concessions and scholarships are regulated by the central government and the University Grants Commission. However, when the UGC officials visited the campus, it came to notice that the Social Protection Office (SPO) and Registrar of the institute deliberately kept information away from students concerning the GoI-PMS scholarship for OBC (NC) students of Maharashtra and freeships for SC, ST, OBC (NC) students. Further, the withdrawal of fee waivers in 2014 saw a drop of as much as 14% in the admissions of OBC students.
Justifying the ridiculous action of calling upon the courts to intervene in the matters of a University, an official said, “We have done it [filed the suit] after 35 days, which means we have allowed them to protest. We have nothing against their right to protest, let them have their space. We are only saying: allow the institute and its officials to function”
It is crucial to mention here that how on March 23, 2018 students waited for several hours to meet the registrar about the concealing of important scholarship related information from the students. However, receiving no response from him, they had no option but to stay outside his office. Afterwards, the institute even called police on campus and students found themselves in an odd situation in which the burden of proof fell on them and they were compelled to assure the police that they did not engage in any destructive activity and that their protest has been completely peaceful.

Meanwhile, this tactics of the TISS administration has not been able to impact the morale of the students in any way. “If raising voice for social justice is deemed illegal, then I have nothing to say. Let the court decide,” Yashwant Zagade said. “Our demands are fair and we have every right to fight for our rights.”

A court hearing is scheduled for today, March 28, 2018.
One can’t help but think, was issuing legal notice the last resort of the institute? Could there have been a meaningful dialogue initiated between students?
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