CHENNAI: Political leaders in the state, cutting across party lines, have come down heavily on Friday on the de-recognition of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) at IIT-Madras, demanding withdrawal of the order.
Besides the DMK, the Congress and Left parties as well as the Dravidar Kazhagam and VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan have directed their ire at the premier institution, terming the action as an unwarranted move against free speech.
Adding force to the opposition chorus, DK president K Veeramani, Thirumavalavan and TVK founder T Velmurugan accused IIT-M of functioning against social justice.
While DMK treasurer M K Stalin maintained that the Centre should respect freedom of speech, TNCC president EVKS Elangovan warned of serious consequences if the order was not revoked. CPM State secretary G Ramakrishnan demanded punitive action against the dean of the institute for initiating action without even conducting an enquiry first.
"I am shocked to see the level of intolerance displayed by one of India's most reputed educational institutions. This move to curb freedom of expression by the institution and the Union government is most disheartening. It shows an unwarranted interference from the Centre in the running of an educational institution", Stalin said.
Pointing out that one should be rather cultivating young minds to engage in dialogue constructively and not stifle dissent, Stalin said, "such regressive and repressive actions will lead to unrest and rebellion among the youth". He asked the Centre to respect freedom of speech and expression of the citizens, while being open to criticism and dissent.
Claiming that an anonymous letter without a signature could not be taken as evidence and that taking action based on such a presumption was illegal, Veeramani said the move only exposed the need for such a student body in the IIT.
"Do students have no right to free expression or should they not be concerned about the society? When outfits like the ABVP can function in IIT-M, why not a progressive students organisation?," the DK president asked.
Asserting that IIT-M has been functioning like a 'sanctum sanctorum where sons of the soil could not enter', Velmurugan said the time had come to open the institution for the common people.
Charging IIT-M with not adhereing to reservation for backward and SC communities, Thirumavalavan said the BC and SC students who join the institution were being harassed.
"This has resulted in the suicide of over 20 Dalit students in the last ten years", he said, adding that even under the Congress rule, IITs were functioning like Hindutva centres and that the situation has only worsened under the BJP regime.
In a scathing attack on the institute's management, Elangovan said the voice of dominant castes had strengthened in the campus after the BJP formed a government at the Centre.
Describing the institute's move as anti-democratic and illegal, he said, "Through this order, the dominant caste groups with a communal mind-set are trying to block the social awareness activities of students fighting for social justice".
The TNCC president also charged the Union Human Resources Development Ministry with issuing a circular to all the IITs in the country to set up separate vegetarian canteens.
Condemning the Dean's action, Ramakrishnan said Sangh Parivar groups had been attacking the right to freedom after the BJP government took over at the Centre. "The Dean had cancelled APSC's recognition without any enquiry. Stringent action should be taken against him", he said.