Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and Police action on Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University were organized at IIT-Madras on the 16th of December. During the protests, slogans such as ‘Bengal Mange Azadi’ and ‘Kashmir Mange Azadi’ were raised. It was first reported by The South Asian Express. The media outlet also reported that it was not spontaneous as was being claimed.
Students from IIT-Madras recently reached out to OpIndia and informed us of the same. Speaking to OpIndia, they confirmed that such slogans were indeed raised at the University. In addition, slogans such as “Brahmanvaad se Azadi”, “Manuvaad se Azadi” were also raised at the same protests. They also made it clear that the protests did not have permission from the Dean and yet, it was carried out anyway. Furthermore, a second ‘meeting’ was organized on the 19th, again without permission which was apparently disrupted by the administration.
Amit Anand Jha, a student of the electrical engineering department at IIT-Madras, reached out to us and told us that there was great distress among the students at the Institution over the fact the protesters were giving the impression that IIT-M as a whole was in opposition to the University. He told us that that there was no such anti-CAA sentiment in the institution and a handful of people with their motivated agenda had gone around claiming that “IIT-Madras is against CAA”.
Jha said, “50-60 students cannot represent the entire IIT-Madras. The message they conveyed to the society is that they are students of IIT-Madras and they are against the CAA. In reality, most of them are from the Humanities department and 50-60 of them are claiming that they represent all of us. That’s not gonna happen.”
When asked if the students were from any representative bodies, Jha said, “There is this group called the APSC. Earlier, when they used to make posters under that name, not many students used to come out. So now, they just take out posters under the name of ‘Students Collective’ which is not a recognized body.” APSC is the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle. Jha told us that ‘Students Collective’ is the name of the unrecognized body being used by APSC to further its protests.
Jha also said that he had created a Google Doc and circulated it around the University to gain some idea about the mood in the Campus regarding the anti CAA protests. The Google Doc that carries the headline ‘IIT-M JUNTA With CAA & AGAINST Unauthorized PROTEST’ was signed by over a hundred students at the University from various departments. The Doc says, “As a student, its but obvious to expect that such anarchists are dealt with strong effects and an example is set to all students! Otherwise, the reputation of institute is at stake too!” It also said, “Kindly come forward to prevent the institution from becoming FUTURE JNU!”
The Google Doc circulated by Jha that has the endorsement of 118 students also calls into question the role of the media. It says, “Now, the saviours are in large numbers (around 50+) there agenda is unfulfilled unless they get national media attention. Media as it is being claimed was inside campus for a symposium happening on KV grounds. It’s fascinating to know media like NDTV, Republic TV, Times Now had turned up for symposium in KV grounds (exactly the position from where rally started). The moment sloganeering starts media jumps in from the KV grounds, wonderful arbitrariness of events, isn’t it Institute Police, was standing helpless as media was covering the entire event. Many by-passers asked for removal of blockage of road near KV grounds (aka Gajendra Circle), Institute Police had just one answer, ‘Media Sir!’.”
A student at the Institution, speaking to OpIndia on the condition of anonymity, narrated a similar series of events. He also told us that although the poster showed ‘Students Collective’, it was actually the APSC that was behind the protests. He also said that most of these students are from the Humanities department. The student was also angry at the media for how it covered the protests. “It has always been the modus operandi, bring the media and pressurize the administration. They will do this every time. The same thing happened in 2017 during the beef protests and even then, the media picked up only one side of the story.” The student was referring to the tendency of the media to blow an issue out of all proportions.
The student told us that the media appears disinterested in covering stories that contradict the leftist narrative. “There was a rally for the Pulwama Martyrs, there was a great support for it on the campus. The photos and videos were shared with all the leading media outlets but sadly, no one covered it. This is what happens, right? It doesn’t suit their agenda. It was a huge gathering, over 800 students.”
The same mood was echoed by another student on the condition of anonymity. He, too, said that the APSC was behind these protests. The student, who is currently pursuing his PhD at the University, said, “They do all these things all the time. Antinational things, anti-constitutional things, and then they call themselves the ‘Rakshak’ of the Constitution.. We want action to be taken against them. They are saying stuff like every state should disintegrate, what is this?” He said that these students are very well connected with the media and their version of events receive great coverage. He further told us, “There are some people who want to portray the Campus as Leftist. These are the same people who are behind this ‘Students Collective’, something that did not even exist until recently.”
Sarvesh Kumar from the Physics department at IIT-Madras, who was not present at home on vacation during these protests, was irritated and annoyed by the lack of awareness about the CAA among those against the Act. He said that there was a certain degree of peer pressure working in the whole thing. Kumar says that every guy wants to prove that he is ‘cooler’ than the next guy. “Some girls who may be very studious but don’t have much idea about other matters put up such statuses. Seeing them, the guys also start putting up such statuses. This is the problem.”
“I didn’t care initially but then, when I saw that this was getting out of hand, I read the Act and everything else. I was surprised by the lack of awareness regarding the Act among those who are protesting against it,” he said before continuing, “The Leftist ecosystem is still very strong you know? Sometimes, you’re just overwhelmed by all of the propaganda they run.” “I got to know of the protests from my friends. My main issue is, how can you say IIT-Madras is against CAA and NRC? I am a student here too and I fully support CAA and NRC.”
The students OpIndia spoke to were of the opinion that the overwhelming majority of the people do not really care about protests. We were told frankly that it was unlikely that many would come out and protest even in support of the CAA because most people were just too busy with their academic schedule. But they assured us that if a vote count was done, most people would actually support the CAA. We were also told that most students did not care because they knew it was a law that did not affect them in any manner but most were supportive of it.
The students were also angry with the Humanities departments and were of the opinion that they have too much free time in their hands for protests. They were also angry that a bunch of Humanities students was trying to speak as the voice of the entire institution when, in reality, they did not represent anyone but themselves. One student told us that such activities also had support from certain faculty members of the Humanities Department. They were also upset with the media for coverage that appeared to show IIT-Madras as a leftist hub. Most of all, they were greatly concerned by the fact that “seditious” slogans were being raised at the University.