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TISS protests: How students are being made pawn for political propaganda

A couple of days back, an article “JNU like protests at TISS in Mumbai – how political propaganda works on campuses” was published on the user generated chapter “My Voice” of OpIndia. The writer mentioned that the ongoing student ‘protest’ has been completely hijacked by people with vested interests. Some pictures of the protest site, the banners, and the messages were also shared in the article. They presented a very strong case on how the protest has shifted towards achieving a larger political objective. In this light, the real issue seems to have become an excuse and the real plight of the students in the need for student aid seems to have taken a back-seat.

Being a student at TISS, I got to hear about the article through my social media network. The article was shared by a former professor of TISS on Facebook. He commented “The article makes some sense. Do read it”. Subsequently, the article spread itself through Facebook and Whatsapp groups. It, naturally, made student union quite uneasy and upset. I have been told that the writer was urged (not directly by the Student Union) to take down the article.

I can see that now the writer has hidden his name and profile on the article. I remember there was a Twitter handle given too, which has been made ‘private’ by the writer. Such is the fear of speaking something leftist unions don’t want to hear. But I remembered the writer’s name, and a google search of the writer would land me to an InsideIIM article. Here, the writer claims that he took admission to TISS after rejecting the offers from IIM Kozhikode and IIFT Delhi. This was against the advice and wishes of his parents due to his belief in the ‘spirit’ of TISS. This point merits consideration.

I do not know what he thinks of this ‘spirit’ now, given the sequence of events that have occurred.  A very uncomfortable truth I have observed that people stand for ‘freedom of expression’, only when it follows certain terms and conditions. The proponents of the jumla of ‘dissent’ get furious when someone else dissents their way of doing things. So, ‘dissent’ as a word is just another fancy or so-called ‘progressive’ word which is being used for their convenience. I will take the liberty of labeling such characters as “professional dissenters” and nothing more.

Allow me to throw light on the issue (Mudde ke baat karte hain). The earlier article did not throw sufficient light on the issue at hand. Hence, I will try and explain the entire picture. Firstly, let us consider the charter of demands which was given to the administration by the students who are on strike.

Following is what the union is demanding (you can click on the images and zoom in if the text size appears small):

charter of demand by TISS student union - 1

charter of demand by TISS student union - 2

charter of demand by TISS student union - 3

charter of demand by TISS student union - 4

A point to be considered here is that the GOI-PMS scholarship (provided by any state) is typically sufficient to cover only the academic expenses of higher education. Meeting dining hall (Mess) and Hostel charges will require additional scholarships. Consider the text marked in Red above, which is quoting the administration.

The administration is here is talking about TISS Scholarships – a student aid which is funded by TISS itself. Till now, GOI-PMS scholarship holders were excluded from this scheme. The admin is now offering to extend it to ALL students (including GOI-PMS scholarship holders) irrespective of their social background. The eligibility to be decided is on the basis of the economic condition. As I will explain later, the doubts raised by student union on the ceiling of the scholarship eligibility are not entirely feasible.

What administration has proposed has the solution to many of the current issues. Students can pay their academic fees through these ‘TISS Scholarships’ and pay their Dining and Hostel charges with the scholarship they get from GOI-PMS. Students who are eligible for GOI-PMS are definitely eligible for ‘TISS Scholarships’ as it based on economic category. Also, if institute and students properly collaborate to get a fund institutionalized in which corporates and alumni can be requested to donate some funds, then this problem can be addressed even more effectively. The corporate donation is very important for any institution in the long run (we can see at Harvard, Stanford or MIT).

Added on to that, even General Category students will also be benefited by this ‘TISS Scholarship’. So, it’s a win-win situation for all! (Well, except for some student union members who are acting as stooges of their political affiliations)

Let us consider the argument “Giving scholarships on the basis of the economic category is a flawed concept because ‘how would panel decide who is vulnerable and in need of financial aid?’” as put by the students union. This can be assessed with Income Certificates, similar to the extant process for GOI-PMS scholarships. Also, this is true that many students who get their scholarships in their own account after the DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer i.e. subsidy/aid/grants directly in bank accounts) implementation do not give back that scholarship for their fees and many such students have already graduated from the college with their degrees.

I also belong to a ‘backward class’ (both economically and socially). I have completed my graduation on scholarships. Therefore, I completely appreciate the importance of Financial Assistance. My heart goes out to all my fellows from the marginalized sections (economic and/or social), who are being used as pawns in the name of caste and class by Student Union and some professors to further their own agenda.

What is happening in my assessment is pure politics. The student union is involved and so are some faculty members. Some of them are very vocal and transparent about their political affiliations and their political party membership. That they have enjoyed influential positions on government bodies is public knowledge. Alas, the (flawed) ideology which they claim to represent is dying all over the world and gasping for its breath in universities. They are trying to further their political agenda by exploiting current situation.

a protest at TISS

The picture above is of professors talking to students. This same professor has been very vocal about his dislike for the placement process of particularly one center. This center is renowned for its excellent course and its graduates are in very high demand in the market. This speech was given on the 3rd day of the strike, after which newer posters emerged on the venue.

The protest over scholarships somehow became about “Bhagwakaran” (Saffronization) and “Neejikaran” (Privatization) – pet utterings of a leftist. I wonder How is this related to student’s financial assistance issue? How is TISS being privatized?
loony leftists protest at TISS

Concern for students was always just an excuse to propagate some political propaganda that is now coming out in open. You just have to have a look at the kind of posters and slogans these guys are chanting. The union, with help of influential faculty members, is using the media to twist the issue by showing it as some caste-related injustice, which they are expert at imagining in every situation. Campus politics and identity politics is in full swing, packaged with ideological propaganda.

political propaganda on TISS campus

We know that BJP is in power, RSS is the parent body of BJP and ABVP is the student wing of RSS. How does this connect with the issue of financial assistance? There are questions to be asked to the current dispensation. They can be (and must be) criticized by perceived/real shortcomings. But, there is no conspiracy by the government against this institute. There has been a reduction of expenditure on education, however, these cuts have been imposed on maintenance costs and not on scholarships.

If political propaganda on and inside campus was not enough, now outsiders are coming in with their own agenda. I came across this video on Facebook where one “Osama bhai” from Aligarh Muslim University (I don’t know whether he is a current student or an alumnus) is addressing students on strike.

After listening to him, one can assess for themselves, where this protest is headed towards. I have following questions; Who called this person to the campus? Who allowed him to speak to the students? Who provided this platform?

The answer is Student Union of TISS. This protest is a ground to pitch for student union re-election next year. Also, there lurks a greater conspiracy to bring disturbance in the campuses across India by using issues which can be solved easily by proper collaboration and framing of policies. Perhaps, this is being done by people whom the “My Voice” article mentioned.

In this process, the reputation of my institution is taking a hit. Aspirants are wondering if they should come to TISS for studies. The other students are caught in a lurch – should they continue their support to a protest which is headed nowhere? Should they put their assignments, their studies on hold?

While this issue has garnered a lot of (negative) publicity, does this achieve what it is supposedly intended to do (which is to bring education within reach of those who lack financial means)? While appreciating the largely peaceful nature of the protest, there have been multiple instances which have caused me significant disquiet. How long will one tolerate instances of hooliganism, lack of courtesy extended to staff members and their families?

Instead, we are being presented with the following logic behind the protests:

  • We will make the life of admin miserable
  • The miserable admin will, in turn, make the government miserable
  • The miserable government will release and sanction more funds
  • Hence, we will make education accessible to all.

Every rational individual will strive towards making education accessible to all. Unfortunately, the current protest has digressed into something else altogether. What purpose and who is this is serving now is definitely not the student who is in need of quality education.

I hope my friends will see the truth and break out of being used as pawns by nefarious political interests.

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