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Sunday , May 31 , 2015
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Guidelines few had cared to read

- Vague rules were used to derecognise IIT Madras group

Chennai, May 30: The "guidelines" whose violation led IIT Madras to derecognise a student study group this week over an anti-government pamphlet are vague and contain no dos or don'ts, suggests information available from a copy.

It has, however, emerged that the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle had waited till the last minute before showing the pamphlet to its officially assigned "faculty adviser" - who's meant to "take responsibility for the group's activities" - leaving him with "nothing I could do".

Still, the only guideline the study circle may be said to have violated is one forbidding student groups from using the institute's name "without official permission" (see chart). Provided, that is, permission needed to be taken separately for the pamphlet.

The study group had distributed a pamphlet castigating the Narendra Modi government's "Hindutva agenda" and economic policies as a curtain-raiser to its celebration of B.R. Ambedkar's birth anniversary at the IIT auditorium on April 14.

The pamphlet sported the "IIT Madras" tag at the top.

An anonymous complaint about the pamphlet's anti-Modi and "anti-Hindu" agenda prompted the Union human resource development ministry to seek an explanation from the institute, which brought de-recognition on May 24 on the technical ground of guideline violation.

Milind Brahme, an associate professor with the IIT's humanities and social sciences department who happens to be the Dalit-dominated study circle's adviser, would not be drawn on whether guidelines had been flouted. But he said the students had tied his hands.

"This pamphlet was shown to me just before the (Ambedkar) programme, so there was nothing I could do," he said. The study circle acknowledged this.

V. Ramesh, a PhD student and member of the study circle, said the adviser's main role was as the intermediary through whom halls were booked and programme requests sent to the dean of students - he did not vet all the pamphlets, anyway.

The student co-ordinator for another study group who didn't want to be identified confirmed that the entire set-up was informal and that the groups carried out their activities after sending emails to their adviser.

"The guidelines were issued in April this year by the student affairs council (a panel of elected student representatives) but none of the already active groups even took notice of them," he said.

"Only after the dean said the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle had violated the guidelines did everyone start poring over the document. There is no clarity which guideline the study circle has violated."

Ramesh said that since the controversy broke out, "we are being asked to give an assurance that we shall desist from any controversial activities before the dean can allow us to restart our activities".

Yesterday, an IIT Madras release and its acting director, K. Ramamurthy, had said the final decision lay with the elected student representatives, before whom the study circle would present its defence on August 1.

"We have also been asked to route all our activities through the dean's office rather than the usual practice of routing all our discussions, plan of activities and pamphlets through our faculty adviser," Ramesh said.

Calls to the mobile number of M.S. Sivakumar, the dean of students, went unanswered. Nor did he reply to an email requesting the guidelines.

This newspaper received a copy of the guidelines - available only in-house - from a source at the institute. The clauses mainly speak about how such "institute-recognised, independent bodies" of students are to be administered and the level of support they can receive from the institute.

The first stricture, against using the tech school's name, is easily bypassed by getting permission from the dean.

For example, the Vivekananda Study Circle, cited as an example in the guidelines, identifies itself as an "IIT Madras-approved independent students' body" on its website, hosted on the institute server.

The Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle calls itself "an IITM students' initiative" on its letterhead and Facebook page.

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