By NewsGram Staff Writer
The government on Friday said it had no role in banning the students’ group at the IIT-Madras even as opposition attacked it for curbing free speech.
The controversy over action against the student’s group for criticizing the Modi government also saw a war of words break out on Twitter between Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani.
In a statement, Irani said: “The action has been taken by IIT-Madras as per the guidelines of the institute, the ministry of human resource development had nothing to do with this except for forwarding the complaint received to director, IIT, Madras for comments”.
IIT-Madras has taken action as per their own “procedure and institute’s guidelines”.
“IITs being autonomous institutions, they are competent to handle matters within their guidelines and procedure. The matter has been clarified by IIT, Madras through a media statement,” it added.
Irani’s statement followed reports stating that the institute had taken action against the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) – a students’ study group – over an anonymous complaint to the central government, saying the study group was trying to “create an atmosphere of hatred” among students by distributing “controversial pamphlets and posters” on the campus.
An anonymous letter to the ministry said that some controversial posters and pamphlets were pasted and distributed all over the institute by the group.
“One group ‘Ambedkar Periyar’ is trying to de-align the ST/SC students and trying to make them to protest against the MHRD and central government. They are also trying to create hatred against the prime minister and Hindus,” it said, adding the group was using IIT-Madras as a stage to get publicity.
The institute’s spokesperson said that while IIT-Madras did not curtail freedom of expression of the students, it is expected that student groups adhere to guidelines while conducting their activities.
Attacking the government, Gandhi, in a tweet, said: “IIT student group banned for criticizing Modi Government. What next?”
He added that free speech “is our right. We will fight any attempt to crush dissent and debate”.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the arrogance of the Narendra Modi government has come to an extent that if “a students’ organization criticizes their policies, that group is disbanded”.
“Is this how voice of dissent raised by youth will be suppressed in the country? This is why Rahulji has raised his voice,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Ambika Soni said: “It is evident (about Modi government). Think like us. Speak our language otherwise you have no place in free India”.
The National Students Union of India (NSUI) also held a protest outside Irani’s residence here against the “anti-constitutional act of the government in banning the APSC of IIT Madras for aptly criticizing the government’s inabilities”.
“NSUI believes that such an act is in complete violation with regard to the constitutional right of freedom of expression and speech given to every individual of the country,” its spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey told IANS.
The protestors were detained and taken to the Parliament Street police station.
The fight was carried on Twitter.
Within minutes of Gandhi condemning the move to censure the IIT students’ group on the micro-blogging site Twitter, Irani threw an open challenge to him. “Next time fight ur battles ur self don’t hide behind NSUI. N by d way I’m returning to Amethi soon. See you there,” she tweeted.
“Tell ur men strong arm tactics were tried in Amethi n didn’t scare me during Lok Sabha elections. They won’t scare me now,” Irani tweeted.
“Yesterday u told NSUI to create disorder where there is order. Today ur goons come to my house as I’m away at work,” she said.
The union minister was on a day-long visit to Silchar in Assam to address party workers to mark the BJP-led government’s one year in office.
(With inputs from IANS)