You can’t stifle them all – IIT B students

Students of IIT Bombay hold event about Art 370 in park, after permission for seminar hall gets cancelled last minute. Many universities have prevented such discussions from taking place in their campus, across India, ever since Article 370 was abrogated.

IIT Mumbai

On November 9, the North-east Collective of IIT Bombay released on its Facebook page, a poster announcing an event to be held on November 11 in the Seminar Room of the department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).

Image courtesy: North East Collective, IIT Bombay

The speakers in the event were Brinelle D’souza, an academic; Freny Manecksha, a writer; Geeta Seshu, an independent journalist and Veena Gowda an advocate from the Maharashtra wing of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The event named “98 days and counting- The Indian Constitution and its History of Radical Revision” had been granted the permission to be held in the seminar hall but the Head of the Department informed the students that the permission was cancelled due to some policy violation. While the seminar hall remained locked even half an hour before the scheduled time for the event, the event was shifted to a park within the campus.

Image courtesy: North East Collective, IIT Bombay

One of the students, who is pursuing his PhD. in philosophy gave details about the topics discussed at the event. The topics covered in the discussion ranged from media coverage and the narrative around the Kashmir lockdown, the on-going violence in the Valley and its impact on women, mental health of the people in the valley and the legal aspects of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution. Freny Manecksha even spoke about her book “Behold, I Shine: Narratives of Kashmir’s Women and Children” released in 2017, giving importance to bringing the voices of Kashmiri locals to the fore, in the discourse.

There has been a lot of debate on the legality of the abrogation of Article 370 while many condemning it and calling it unconstitutional. We have considered Kashmir to be the crown of the nation and now the crown has completely lost its sheen. We have seen the rest of India basking in the “glory” of removal of special status of the State, not realising the aftermath of such a decision which was followed by a complete lockdown of the state. 

It is commendable that despite of facing a hurdle, the students of IIT-B found a way to make the event happen and what better place than an open park to have a discussion about democracy and freedom! While the plight of Kashmiri locals has not found a medium to be voiced, it is important that we, as fellow citizens, stand in solidarity with them and when students groups like these hold discussions like these defying all odds, the discourse remains alive and there still remains a hope that one day the crown will shine again.

Previous incidents of suppression of University students

In the past such discussions have been succesfully stifled within University campus premises. University administrations have tried their best to prevent such discussions from taking place ever since Article 370 was abrogated and Kashmir was put under a lockdown. Ahead of a planned debate on Article 370 in Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh Muslim University, security personnel were deployed in the premises as a precautionary measure, armed with tear gases. A talk on Article 370 was cancelled in Panjab University in Chandigarh as the university authorities claimed that the police had told them that no event on the Kashmir issue would be allowed inside the campus.

Two days after Article 370 was abrogated, the Central University of Tamil Nadu issued a circular which states, “Anybody or group of persons who indulge in activities and which is a threat to security and integrity of India will not be tolerated and stern action will be taken against them, including dismissal from the university without conduct of any inquiry, followed by criminal action under the IPC.” When posters expressing solidarity with Kashmir came up on the walls in the campus, the University’s management filed a police complaint to find people responsible behind the posters.

University of Hyderabad also followed suit and issued an order prohibiting protests and agitations, “..all the protests and agitations are prohibited in the Hyderabad University campus with immediate effect and assembling of five or more persons at one place are also prohibited forthwith until further orders.” Accordingly, the university denied permission for a panel discussion on Article 370 but two days later member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) took out a bike rally on campus hailing the revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the integration of Kashmir with the country. The students naturally felt betrayed that if a discussion about Kashmir cannot take place why was a celebration about Kashmir be permitted on campus. This raises some serious questions about where the orders were really coming from.

A peculiar incident occurred in Central University of Tamil Nadu whereby a weekly UPSC study circle in the campus was asked to stop discussions and vacate the room, alleging that the same were about Article 370. The students claim that the discussion was about the history of Article 370 as the same is relevant for studying for UPSC. They refused to stop their discussion but later received memo from the University asking for explanation why disciplinary action should not taken against them.

Universities are made to comply with orders which are clearly coming from their governments. The government is getting wary of student’s rising consciousness and in an apparent bid to avoid security concerns, is stifling students’ discussions. One wonders how insecure is this government that they are scared of letting students discuss within classrooms.



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