Published: 16th July 2019
Medha Patkar, Binayak Sen 'deeply disturbed' by TISS-Hyd closure, demand campus reopen immediately
Several activists demand that administration ensure steps are taken to ensure that students from marginalized and Bahujan backgrounds have access to hostels
Activists from across the country including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Binayak Sen, members of the PUCL, Domestic Workers Union, Dalit Bahujan Front and various other organisations have written to TISS, Hyderabad condemning their decision to shut down the campus. The activists write that they are deeply disturbed and dismayed by the decision and said they were concerned with the manner in which the management has chosen to respond to the protest which includes Dalit, Adivasi and women students.
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, P. Shankar (Dalit Bahujan Front), Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), Sunita Rani, Domestic Workers Union and various others have demanded that the administration immediately revoke their order.
They also demanded that the administration ensure necessary steps are taken to ensure that Dalit, Adivasi and other students from marginalized and Bahujan backgrounds have access to hostels and other amenities. The activists also demanded that the management ensure proper medical support to the students on the hunger strike.
The letter addressed to Shalini Bharat, the director, U Vindhya deputy director and MP Balamurugan, acting registrar called out the fact that there had been multiple rounds of protests by the students of TISS since last year. " It is a very unfortunate state of affairs that students have to repeatedly keep protesting for their legitimate demands and this time around, about 13 students had to even go on a hunger strike for the third consecutive day," the letter said.
Calling the move to make students pay an exorbitant amount of Rs 54,650 upfront exclusionary, the activists said that this was just an indirect way to 'reinforce rigid caste structures, "This is clearly an exclusionary step whereby most students belonging to socio-economically marginalized communities will not be able to continue education and in an indirect way reinforces rigid caste structures whereby students only from certain social locations can access quality education. Such a huge monetary expectation runs contrary to the spirit and purpose of an exemplary institution like TISS," the activists said in their statement.
The social workers also reiterated many of the students' demands including their request to pay the dining hall fees after the students receive their stipend. They also pointed out the fact that the management is refusing to display its tender documents and contract with the service provider.
While appreciating that the institute had taken some initiative to start a dialogue, they agreed to the students that the efforts were shallow. "As the students rightly point out, these are piecemeal efforts and what is required is a more structured and sustainable solution to the issue that is available both to the present and subsequent batches of students," the letter read.
Taking note of the fact that student aid over the years had drastically reduced for SC, ST students, the activists said that there was a larger struggle to ensure a nation-wide fully state-funded common education system that would uphold the ideals of social justice. "We are told, to our anguish that, as of now, there are only 26 students in the Hyderabad campus that study through GOI - PMS. The burden of the fund cuts of the institute is being shifted on the students from marginalized communities and this is certainly not in keeping with our constitutional spirit. This is a slow death of public higher education, where education is becoming a commodity only a few can afford," said the statement.
Criticising the decision to shut down the campus instead of engaging with the students, the activists in their letter said, "The sine die closure order, asking all the students to vacate the campus by 5 pm reflects badly on the institution which is unable to address the issue and rather affecting the education of all other students. We earnestly appeal to administration, faculty and students to engage in another round of constructive dialogue and amicably resolve the matter. Given the power hierarchy, the administration clearly has a greater role in this context."