PM should speak up, feel IIT students

Narendra Modi. Picture by Prem Singh

Mumbai: Several students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, on Sunday said the Prime Minister should speak out against growing incidents of atrocities against Muslims and Dalits, echoing a statement some of their peers had purportedly posted on Facebook.

"How can any sane person support the incidents of lynching and its glorification that is being carried out by some sections of the society?" a student of the premier tech school told this newspaper.

"The Prime Minister should personally address these issues and speak more often and rein in the elements who make a mockery of the justice system by glorifying such criminal acts."

The emphatic assertion came a day after Narendra Modi addressed the institute's annual convocation and two days after Friday's Facebook statement that was signed "Students of IIT Bombay".

The statement dwelt on topics like joblessness, academic autonomy and hate crimes, issues the Prime Minister chose not to address when he spoke on Saturday.

On Sunday, students of the IIT said such topics were common at dining table discussions at the hostel and between classes.

"One can say that many students in the institute are fairly aware of what is happening around the country. We discuss the daily politics and what is happening. We too have our concerns and frankly we do not know whom to address these," one student said.

Another said that whoever had made the Facebook statement on behalf of the "Students of IIT Bombay" were justified in "expressing their discontent".

"There are some genuine concerns among a section of the students, especially those who need scholarships to continue their higher education. The hike in fees and dwindling government support is a cause for concern," said another student.

The names of the students are being withheld because of security concerns and possible consequences to their academic careers.

Five years ago, however, over 80 per cent of the students among the nearly five lakh from all the IITs, IIMs and other business schools, law schools and other universities had voted for Modi in an online poll as the leader they wanted to hear.

Modi, then preparing for his big leap from Gujarat to Delhi, had addressed students at New Delhi's Thyagraj stadium on October 2, 2013, at a conclave organised by the not-for-profit group Citizens for Accountable Governance.

In another address to students at Pune's Ferguson College the same year, Modi had talked about spending "25 per cent of the GDP on education".

On Friday, an article posted on the Facebook page of Insight IIT Bombay, the media wing of the institute that publishes news and activities from the campus, questioned the rationale behind inviting Modi to the convocation.

The article spoke about the hassles that the graduating students and their parents had to go through and the disruption in normal campus life when Manmohan Singh, who was the Prime Minister at that time, had addressed the convocation in 2012.

"A celebration that should be primarily about the graduating students has morphed into a ceremony centred around a chief guest... While it is a matter of honour and great pride to host the Prime Minister, the political connotations of his visit cannot be ignored. One is forced to question the rationale behind inviting such a high profile guest from the political realm," the article says.

For Singh's visit in 2012, a concrete helipad and a pathway had been built on the main gymkhana ground and were not removed till the students themselves demolished the concrete structures.

"With PM Narendra Modi as the chief guest, one can see history repeating itself. The elaborate measures that have been put into place have caused the focus to shift away from the graduating students. Once again the security protocol have demanded extensive police presence on the campus disrupting normal life," the article says.


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