CHENNAI: Caught in a controversy over derecognising the student group Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle allegedly over casteist reasons, the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras saw a host of protests by outfits ranging from the far Right to the far Left in support of the student group on Saturday morning.
The institute was engulfed with a thick police cover right from morning to control the protests.
Among the protesters were the Revolutionary Students Youth Front, the radical Left outfit that had distributed the pamphlet alleging Manu Dharma (casteism) inside the institute campus, which was cited in the complaint that a section of students sent anonymously to the Union HRD Minister.
Cadre of CPM's youth wing, DYFI, too arrived before the institute gates in the morning to stage protests in solidarity with the APSC. Not very far away, at Madhya Kailash junction, members of Dravidian outfit, Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, gathered shouting slogans against the IIT management for derecognising the study circle.
There was a minor scuffle when the police prevented the protesters from staging road blockage as part of the agitation. The cadre were finally removed before long.
Interestingly, even as the Periyarists and the radical Leftists protested against “the casteist, elitist authorities” as they put it, Arjun Sampath, leader of a fringe right wing group, Hindu Makkal Katchi, landed there with his men. Their demand was to rename the institute to Ambedkar University. They, too, were arrested and removed soon.
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The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at the IIT Madras was derecognised by the Dean of Students, apparently for not following norms including seeking prior permission before using the institute's name. The action came after the HRD ministry sent a letter to the IIT director asking its comments over the anonymous complaint against the study circle.
While outside the State the issue snowballed as a case of curtailing freedom of expression, Dravidian activists and politicians in Tamil Nadu stress that the issue goes much deeper. According to their charge, the present controversy exposed the existence of the caste system within the campus, practised and propagated by the authorities themselves.