Students’ Fresh Protest at TISS Hyderabad and a Victory of the Protesting Girls in PU

In the last few years, we have witnessed massive student protests in various educational institutes across the country, mainly against privatization of education, semester fee hike, gender inequality, fund cuts, the violation of promise of increasing research fellowship in every four years, forcible saffronization of the campus, and other anti-student policies specific to the corresponding institutes. The students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), across their different campuses, played a crucial role in these nationwide protests. For example, earlier in this year, the students of TISS Mumbai, Hyderabad, Tuljapur, and Guwahati staunchly protested against the administration’s circular that announced the withdrawal of aid to students from marginalized communities, eligible for the Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS) scheme. Now, the TISS Hyderabad administration launched another fresh attack on the students through its arbitrary announcement of withdrawing the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Social Sciences course to make TISS Hyderabad a non-residential campus. The students are protesting against this decision since 10th December, 2018.

The most surprising fact is that the administration did not discuss this decision with the students, in spite of the fact that most of the students will be severely affected by such decision. Even, no formal notification was provided by the administration. The students came to know about the plans of withdrawing BA in Social Science course and making the campus non-residential from the next year, through a newspaper advertisement on 31st October. After getting no satisfactory response from the administration in this regard, the students decided to go for a fee boycott. However, on 22nd November the students were communicated that the decision will not be reversed. Thus, the students started a protest from 10th December by boycotting lectures. After a failed meeting between the student representatives and Internal Management Committee (IMC) of the Hyderabad campus on 14th December, the students decided to carry on an indefinite hunger strike, starting from 17th December. First of all, it is a matter of gross cheating with the students, as they were promised hostel facilities while taking admission to the college. Especially, the female students will face severe hardships due to such decision. Majority of female students, even being eligible, will not be allowed by their families in such situation. Even, some of the existing students may drop out from their courses. Moreover, most of the students belongs to marginalized communities and cannot afford a rent-house outside the campus. Such attempts to create problems for the students belonging to marginalized communities were also seen several times in the past. Thus, the recent situation in TISS Hyderabad is nothing but a part of the grand Manu-vadi patriarchal agenda of barring such students from getting proper education. In a larger perspective, this Manu-vadi agenda joined hands with the ongoing privatization and commercialization of public funded educational institutes, to completely deprive the working class from education sector. The exploiters are well-aware of the power of education. They even witnessed the recent massive student uprisings across the country against their pernicious motive of selling education like commodities. They realized that these protesting students are the torch-bearers of a future society, free from exploitation, free from injustices. Thus, by detaching the educational system from the working class, the exploiters are trying their best to make it available only for the upper stratum of the society, whose class interests are similar, i.e., to exploit the poor by any means. In a situation like this, the students, especially the young social scientists are not only resisting the ongoing commodification of education, but also exposing its real aim of transforming the students into mere slaves of the private corporations. Thus, specific onslaughts are being carried on social sciences by various means, which now even extended to a complete withdrawal of BA in Social Sciences course in TISS Hyderabad.

The exploiters have also identified that day by day women have started to play a pivotal role in all struggles against any kind of oppressions, and strengthened the resistance in a way which is beyond their imagination, be it a national level resistance struggle, or a struggle inside educational campuses. Thus, along with their traditional policies, they are also using and indulging the Manu-vadi patriarchal agendas of the present brahminist ruling party in educational institutes. Patriarchal diktats on women students, sidelining and covering up the incidents of sexual harassments of women students, moral policing inside campuses etc. are some examples of that. However, despite their pernicious attempts, they are constantly loosing grounds in front of the ‘pinjda tod’ movements in various campuses. For example, the Punjab University (PU) administration has finally bowed down its head in front of the protest against the hostel curfew timings for girls and fines in case of violating the time restrictions. The women hostellers started fresh protest since 29th October, 2018, with their demand of keeping the gates of girls’ hostel remain open for 24×7. After the 48 days long protest, the senate, at last, ruled out the distinction in the hostel rules for boys and girls. The heated discussion among the senate members clearly exposed the presence of Manu-worshippers inside the governing body of an educational institute such as PU. The situation is no different in many other institutes, rather has become grave under the constant attempt of saffronizing educational campuses in the present BJP-led regime. Thus, the victory of the women hostellers of PU should be seen as an ideological victory over Manu-vadi patriarchal framework and as a significant achievement to end gender discrimination in college campuses. Kanupriya, the newly elected and the first women president of Punjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC), who took firm stand against the discrimination and had a pivotal role in this movement, aptly pointed out that – “This would give a boost to the girls who now will not hesitate to come forward and assert their rights.”

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