CHENNAI: Caught in a controversy over de-recognising the student group Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) witnessed several outfits staging protests in support of the students on Saturday.
The institute was engulfed in a thick police cover right from the morning in an attempt to keep protesters at bay.
Cadre from the Democratic Youth Federation of India, CPM’s youth wing, were the first to stage an agitation in front of the institute around noon, followed by members of the Revolutionary Students Youth Front. The protesters, including a sizeable number of women and a small child, tried to block the busy Sardar Patel road waving flags and raising slogans against the Central government, the IIT-M management and “oppressionist classes”.
“Reinstate the student body; Stop casteist oppression”, the agitators shouted even as minor scuffles broke out between them and the policemen trying to bundle them into the waiting vans. It took nearly 15 minutes for police to remove the protesters from the spot and clear the traffic. One of the last people to board the van was a woman constable cradling the child.
Barely 20 minutes had passed before another protest erupted at Madhya Kailash, a couple of hundred metres away from the IIT-M, where around 20-30 activists belonging to the Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam shouted slogans calling for the reinstatement of APSC. The protesters also set fire to portraits of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani.
Meanwhile, much to the amusement of onlookers, members of right wing fringe group Indu Makkal Katchi, led by Arjun Sampath, landed up near the institute. Even as he waved the portraits of Ambedkar, Sampath told the media that he welcomed the action taken against the APSC.
After a brief interval of peace, members of the South Chennai Youth Congress arrived to stage a protest outside the gates of the premier institute. However, they dispersed once police stopped them.
Far away from the IIT, TNCC’s SC wing leader K Selvaperunthagai led a much larger protest in front of the Shastri Bhavan in Nungambakkam. “We vehemently oppose the ban since it’s against freedom of expression. It is aimed at curbing student activities inside IIT-M,” Selvaperunthagai told Express.
In all, police arrested over 150 persons belonging to various outfits. Earlier in the day, a forum called All Student Movements held a press conference during which it demanded that the ban be revoked. “APSC should be allowed to function in the same way as other study circles do,” the group said.