Jamia, IIT Madras Criticised for Cancelling Student-Organised Events

While Jamia students were told they can’t invite speakers from “outside”, IIT Madras said the speakers invited were “controversial”.

The auditorium at Jamia Millia Islamia. Credit: Facebook/Jamia Millia Islamia

The auditorium at Jamia Millia Islamia. Credit: Facebook/Jamia Millia Islamia

New Delhi: Both Jamia Millia Islamia and IIT Madras have recently come under the scanner for cancelling events for questionable reasons.

In Jamia, students have alleged that the university has denied permission for an event titled ‘Shrinking Democratic Spaces in Universities’. Permission had been granted at first and students were even asked to reschedule the event for Thursday (September 14). However, soon after, permission was withdrawn and students were told they can’t “invite speakers from outside Jamia”, Indian Express reported.

The university administration said that there is no reason for them to deny permission for events if students follow the proper protocol. “There are protocols which students are aware of and need to follow. They could come to the department head or directly go to the Dean Students Welfare office… Jamia as an institution has never been stringent on these matters,” Saima Syed, Jamia public relations officer, told the newspaper.

However, students say they did follow protocols and were granted permission after they submitted a letter to the proctor and dean of students welfare with a list of speakers included. “Permission was granted by chief proctor Haroon Sajjad, and verified by registrar A.P.I Siddiqui and dean students welfare Prof. Naved Iqbal. Yesterday, we got an intimation from the proctor, DSW, and security advisor that we aren’t allowed to invite speakers from outside Jamia…,” a student told Indian Express.

At IIT Madras, three lectures on the theme of ‘social equity’ were cancelled apparently because the university decided the speakers invited were “controversial”, the News Minute reported. The speakers were Stalin K., a documentary filmmaker and human rights activist, Nandini Sundar, a professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, and Adhik Kadam, a social entrepreneur and activist. They were scheduled to speak at the NSS Foundation Day event in the varsity on September 23.

Biyas Muhammed, an IIT student and who was part of the previous managerial NSS team, told News Minute that the three speakers had accepted the invite. “We conduct this programme every year. Last year we had called Bezwada Wilson (a social activist). This year, the lectures were themed on social equity and the NSS team had invited Stalin, Adhik Kadam and Nandini Sundar. They had accepted the invitations also.”

The dean of students and faculty advisor of the NSS cancelled the lectures, the website reported. “They informed the NSS team that speakers are controversial and did not elaborate any further on it. The NSS team members refused to send emails to the renowned speakers. The faculty advisor and dean of students said that they will send mails to the speakers,” Muhammad said.

The email to the speakers said, according to the News Minute:

“The purpose of this email is to bring to your kind attention the fact that unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to hold your lecture. I am fully aware that, keeping in mind the request from our student volunteers, you must have cancelled or postponed other engagements. I am very sorry for that. We hope to find another opportunity to invite you at a later date. Thanks in advance for your understanding.”

Stalin, one of the disinvited speakers, told the Indian Express,

“Some teachers and administrators managing learning are uncomfortable with genuine curiosity and inquiry and are comfortable with indoctrination as a safe way of teaching. Educational institutions, of all places, need to be the bastion of intellectual pursuit and no subject or person or position should be outside the scope of scrutiny or exploration. This sort of backing out is done out of fear of displeasing the powers that be… An opportunity to learn is lost.”

The dean did not reply to the News Minute‘s request for comment.

Note: Nandini Sundar is married to one of the founding editors of The Wire.

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