Dalit student suspended by TISS for 'anti-national' activities like Protests & Documentary Screenings

Ramdas has been barred for two years, not limited to the Mumbai campus of TISS.

Credit : Indie Journal


Mumbai | Ramdas KS, the Dalit PhD scholar from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) at Mumbai, who was recently suspended by the TISS administration for 'anti-national' activities like protesting and expressing dissent on a few occasions, has decided to appeal against the institute’s decision. While all students’ organisations on campus, except for the right wing unions, have expressed solidarity with Ramdas, the institute, upon receiving flak, has issued a statement justifying their action. However, the students supporting Ramdas have called the reasons given by the institute for the suspension as ‘imaginary stories’.

Ramdas, who is pursuing his PhD from TISS, has been barred for two years, not limited to the Mumbai campus of TISS. The reasons that the institute mentioned in their public notice include several protests and demonstrations that Ramdas participated in on and off campus. These include participation in the Parliament March in New Delhi in January this year, calling students out for the screening of the BBC documentary, sharing a pamphlet about the screening of ‘Ram Ke Naam’ on social media and organising other on-campus protests.

“None of these have anything to do with the institute. They cannot curtail anybody’s right to protest or criticise the government,” Ramdas told Indie Journal.

The notice issued to Ramdas says, “It has come to the notice of the institute that, you staged a demonstration outside the parliament under that banner of organsation PSF-TISS. The said organisation is not recognised by TISS and has no connection with any activity of TISS, still the word 'TISS' is being misused, which wrongfully created an impression that is has some association with TISS and its views are endorsed by TISS."

Another PhD student at TISS, on condition of anonymity, told Indie Journal that in the last few years, the atmosphere at TISS has changed gradually in accordance with the larger political change taking place in the country.

“TISS was known to be a progressive institute, where student elections took place regularly and there was a space for dissent. It has changed now. Earlier, TISS was a deemed institute. But later, the Central Government took more control, saying that it was funding over 30 percent of the institute’s maintenance. It is now a public funded institute, thus, the administration does not want anything that will upset the Central Government,” he said.

In their public notice, the institute has labelled the participation by Ramdas in protests as 'a shift in focus towards activities unrelated to his academic pursuits, engaging in events, protests and other activities influenced by personal political agendas'. The institute, in their notice, have indicated towards the protests or events that Ramdas participated in as 'unlawful activities'.


(Click on the image to read the notice)


The institute also alleged that during the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in January, Ramdas posted pamphlets on social media for an 'unauthorised' screening of 'Ram Ke Naam' at the Mumbai campus, without approval from the TISS Administration.

"We had not organised the event. And he had just shared the post on social media, that's all," his fellow student said.

“And all these stories are cooked stories. I was part of almost all the events that they mentioned in the notice. The administration is telling blatant lies and that is clear to everyone,” said a fellow student at TISS Mumbai on condition of anonymity. 

Ramdas also alleged that the institute did not follow proper protocol before taking action against him.

“They sent me a notice on March 7, to which I replied. I expected an investigation after that, however, I directly issued the notice of suspension on April 18,” Ramdas said.

“Further, when there is such a case involving a margnalised student, a representative of the students union and a representative of the Equal Opportunities Cell must be present. One of the member of the faculty or a representative of the department of the student must also be present. None of this was followed. There was no proper inquiry or hearing,” a student from the Progressive Students Federation or PSF said.

While suspension of students due to their participation in protests is new, students say that the institute has been discouraging dissent and related events on campus.

“They have become very unapproachable. Despite repeated requests, we do not get permissions for events. They do not respond to the students unions as well,” the student added.



Apart from Ramdas, the students said that show-cause notices had been issued to some other students as well. But the reasons behind these were not clear.

“They are trying to scare the students. But instead, the students have come together in support of Ramdas,” the fellow student from PSF said.

The other student also emphasised, “It is definitely building pressure on the institute as well. It was after all the backlash they received, that they came out with a statement.”

However, the institute’s actions do make him worry about the future students coming there.

“An educational institute is supposed to be a free and democratic space. But now, they want to curtail the constitutional rights of the students to appease the Central Government. This will affect all the students, but it will also affect the marginalised students in a big way. It will be much more difficult for them to raise their concerns,” he said.