IIT Bombay student circle organises reading of Prof Ganesh Devy's book after his lecture was cancelled

A talk by educator, linguist, and activist Prof GN Devy was cancelled by the administration of IIT Bombay citing unforeseen reasons  
What's happening at IIT Bombay? | (Pic: APPSC and EdexLive)
What's happening at IIT Bombay? | (Pic: APPSC and EdexLive)

The students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay gathered at the LT-PCSA on the campus, today, January 31 for a chapter reading from Professor Ganesh Devy's book, informed a post by the APPSC (Ambedkar Phule Periyar Study Circle) of IIT Bombay.

"The students have decided to come together tomorrow at the time and place where the talk was supposed to be held and read a chapter from Prof Ganesh Devy's book. Routine cancelation of such talks & events is a sign of times when the establishment is trying to curb free thinking," the student collective had posted on Tuesday, January 30.

Prof Devy who is the Chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and a tribal activist, was scheduled to deliver a lecture titled The Crisis Within: On Knowledge and Education in India, today, Wednesday, January 31 at PC Saxena Auditorium on the campus. 

Previously, an abstract shared by the institute informed that the talk was on the challenges faced by educational institutions pertaining to the lack of infrastructure, lack of adequate funding for proper functioning, and genuine sense of autonomy within educational institutions. But the lecture was cancelled by the institute "arbitrarily", say students.

According to a student of the institution, who is also one of the organisers of today's gathering, sections were read out from his book The Crisis Within: On Knowledge and Education in India, published in 2017, where concerns of inequality in an educational institution, representation of minorities in educational institutions, knowledge systems excluding sects of people and other topics were brought forth for a discussion. The student chose to remain anonymous.

"Unforeseen Circumstances"
The email sent out to the students from the PRO (Public Relations Officer) of IIT Bombay on January 29 stated that due to "unforeseen circumstances", the authorities were compelled to cancel the event. APPSC IIT Bombay shared a screenshot from the aforementioned email via a post on the social media platform X.

The student circle further added that such acts cannot continue and that they condemn such acts that attempt to police thoughts. "The centres of education are supposed to be the sites of free thought. We invite all the students to join hands and stand against such a regressive trend," their post read.

With rigorous rules being introduced in the institution, the students gauge the perilous threat to the autonomy of educational spaces. 

A student, under the condition of anonymity, informed EdexLive that not only is organising talks solely by professors or student bodies prohibited by the authority, but such talks are even being cancelled without any prior reason. "Earlier this month, on the eve of Savitri Bai Phule's birth anniversary, a talk was not allowed to take place, and now the talk by Prof GN Devy, which was, in the first place, organised by the institution, was cancelled."

A similar incident took place on November 7, last year when Professor Achin Vanaik's talk was cancelled by the IIT Bombay administration after controversy erupted regarding his alleged pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian stance. Professor Achin Vanaik is a retired professor of International Relations, at Delhi University and is an activist known for his radical views.

Enforcing control over academia?
On January 29, the day the students had received the intimation of the lecture cancellation, another email was sent from the Office of Dean of International Relations (IR) of IIT Bombay regarding the retraction of the Persian/Arabic language course offered to students. The email stated, "We regret to inform you that we won't be offering a Persian/Arabic language course in the current semester due to some unavoidable circumstances. An email about registration will be sent in case these courses are run in the next academic year 2024-25."

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