Published: 16th November 2023
IIT Bombay silent event for Palestine children: Interim event guidelines released hours after gathering
The silent event happened on November 14 to honour the children who became victims of the Palestine war
"The silent event which was scheduled to begin at 5.30 pm started almost 30 minutes late as the security guards present at the School of Management (SOM) building outnumbered us," said a student from the organising team of the event. The silent event was organised by the students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay to honour the children who lost their lives due to the Palestine war.
Speaking to EdexLive, a student, on the condition of anonymity, said that around 70-80 students and faculty members had participated in the event, among which, there were 10 to 15 faculty members and the remaining were students. "There was security at the entrances of the SOM building and on all sides as well. However, we strived to place a white sheet on the ground and started painting the Palestine flag with our hands. Along with the cloth, the stationery items, sheets and candles which were bought to pay respect to the children were taken away by the guards," the student said.
Additionally, Powai police were called as more and more students started to join. Sharing why the guards were obstructing the silent event, the student said, "The police said we are not permitted to organise this event."
When asked if the students sought actual permission from the institute, the student said, "We sent an email early November 14 to the Dean of Student Affairs.
Permission was not granted?
The email that students sent to the institute, which EdexLive has a screenshot of, read, "We wish to inform you about an informal gathering organised by IIT Bombay for Justice at the SOM on 14th November at 5.30 pm. This event is in remembrance of the children who have tragically lost their lives in Palestine." This email was sent to the Dean of Student Affairs at 9.16 am on November 14.
At 12.46 noon, the Registrar of the institute, Ganesh Bhorkade, replied stating, "The event scheduled in SOM well does not have permission from the competent authorities." Further citing the reason for not permitting the student's silent event, he said, "In view of the recent incidents involving a faculty member on a similar subject and keeping in mind the safety of all on campus, such events are not permitted. CSO (Chief Security Officer) for necessary action."
Police, new rules and what else?
To recall, on November 14, hours after the event, the institute posted a notice with a set of new rules to host an event/talk or meeting. Citing this, the student said, "This is intimidating because earlier, there was no requirement to inform the police regarding any event or meeting." Further, disclosing how the police obstructed the silent event, the student said, "As more and more students started gathering, Powai police were called and they took away our posters." Reportedly, the students were circulating printed posters which had Gaza Stripe images, a few lines in Urdu languages and the like. It may be noted that after the silent protest ended, the new interim guidelines were released.
"Police confiscated our posters saying that they cannot read the language and what if the posters were anti-national in nature," the student said, highlighting that around 20 security guards and 10 policemen were present at the spot.
In this regard, today, November 16, Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), an independent student body at IIT Bombay, issued a statement condemning this act of administration.
Reactions from students
A student from the organising team said, "The violence in Palestine has been affecting many of us. Peacefully gathering together to express our solidarity with the children who are affected by this violence was the bare minimum we could do. As human beings who are connected with the rest of the world, we cannot just be ignorant towards the plight of our fellow human beings."
"I believe such solidarity is also a part of our learning as responsible citizens of a democracy, citizens who are politically aware. Coming together on such issues also eases the discomfort for everyone. This was the thought behind organising this gathering," the student added, stressing that the administration has failed to respect their fundamental right to assemble peacefully.
"The students were threatened with sections like 144. The space for our basic democratic rights is gradually being taken away. It seems the institute only wants to create a highly skilled labour force that is completely ignorant of humane feelings," the student told EdexLive.
A member of the APPSC circle recalled that this has been the case, wherein, the "...administration has tried to intimidate and stop silent protests, during fee hike protests, during anti-CAA protests and so on."