Published: 20th December 2018
TISS Hyd students call off hunger strike after director assures their demands will be discussed
The students will call for a press meet once the Mumbai and Hyderabad administration meet and discuss the issue at length
The indefinite hunger strike by the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, was called off on December 20 after the students received an official document signed by the director assuring that the BA course on Social Sciences will be reinstated from the academic year 2020-21, and the present hostel facilities are going to be sustained. Ten students have been fasting since December 17.
The students said that there have been positive developments about the rest of their demands they had and that they have decided on a future plan of action that would ensure all their concerns are adequately addressed and worked upon depending on their priorities. "We are waiting for a meeting of the Hyderabad and Mumbai administration tomorrow," said Varsha Priyadarshini, one of the protesting students. "After which we will organise a press conference and speak about the issue in details. But the director has not addressed us yet."
The students had garnered support from 122 academics, including well-known names like C P Chandrasekhar, who have released a statement appealing the TISS administration to reverse the decision.
The "academicians, intellectuals and members of civil society" expressed their concern over the discontinuation of the bachelor’s in social science in TISS Hyderabad. "This is a unique undergraduate programme that combines a strong interdisciplinary approach with a robust commitment to social justice and social change. Since its inception, it has built a diverse student body fostering critical thought in theory as well as practice," read the statement which was signed by academicians from across the globe. "Given the overall attack on academic institutions, privatisation of education and saffronisation of curriculum content, it is vital that we preserve and strengthen progressive programmes like the BA in Social Sciences. We are also disturbed to hear that, in line with neo-liberal prescriptions, Tata Institute of Social Sciences has decided to withdraw residential facilities for students in its Hyderabad campus, thereby depriving students of marginalised and oppressed sections the chance to avail of quality higher education."
Inspire To Fight: Rohith Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula addresses the students on the first day of their hunger strike (Pic: Bibin Sam Thomas)
Rohith Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula and brother Raja had also extended their support towards the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad when they commenced their indefinite hunger strike at 9 am on December 17. The Telangana Save Education Committee also joined the students.
The administration's decision came when the students were on their semester break and even though there has been no official notice yet the administration, allegedly, has confirmed that they will not budge from their decision. "Two of our students met the administrative staff at the Mumbai campus and they were told that this decision was being taken due to the lack of infrastructure. While it's true that the institute operates out of the Telangana State Institute of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development's campus, it has been like this from the first day. There has been no change in the situation to prompt such a decision," said Bibin Sam Thomas, a final year BA Social Science student. "We got to know about the issue when people tried to apply for the BA course and could not find a link on the website. Then came news reports saying that the course has been scrapped and they will also discontinue hostel facilities. Our first form of protest was to boycott fees. That's all we could do from home."
It's not just the BA students protesting, some of the MA students have also boycotted their classes and are participating in the protest. The management committee met the student representatives at 3.30 pm on December 13 — but the protest intensified after the talks turned out to be futile. "The Deputy Director along with the management committee members shrugged off all the responsibilities. He said that our demands venture into issues that the Hyderabad administration cannot decide. They said that they equivocally support the decision," said Vaivab Das, MA in Women Studies, "They said that they empathise with us but they have to stand by the declaration, when we told them that making the campus non-residential will make the institute inaccessible to a large section who cannot afford private accommodation."
An emergency meeting was called on December 15 and the students decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike till their demands are met or the management is ready for some negotiation.