IIT-B introduces guidelines for ‘political’ campus events | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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IIT-B introduces guidelines for ‘political’ campus events

Nov 16, 2023 05:17 PM IST

The guidelines specify that the external speaker review committee, appointed by the institute director, will vet external speakers

Mumbai: In response to recent controversies surrounding events organised by the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) department, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has issued new guidelines for hosting events on campus. The institute has introduced an ‘external speaker review committee’ to approve speakers from outside the institute, particularly for events with potential political implications.

The institute recently called off a scheduled lecture by retired Delhi University professor Achin Vanaik titled ‘Israel Palestine: The Historical Context’. (HT PHOTO)
The institute recently called off a scheduled lecture by retired Delhi University professor Achin Vanaik titled ‘Israel Palestine: The Historical Context’. (HT PHOTO)

Under the interim guidelines, public events organised by faculty must receive approval from the head of the academic unit. Student-organised events require official permission from the administration, and protests on campus are strictly prohibited without prior approval from both the institute and local police.

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The guidelines specify that the external speaker review committee, appointed by the institute director, will vet external speakers. Faculty members hosting events must provide detailed information, including speaker bios, abstracts of talks, public links, and recorded materials for review.

The document emphasises the need for apolitical engagement on campus, stating that IIT Bombay encourages open discussions but must remain apolitical to uphold its primary mission. Any violation of defamation rules or acts of indiscipline, including participation in controversial events, may lead to disciplinary action.

The guidelines differentiate between ‘purely non-political’ events, such as scientific, technological, research-based, literary or artistic gatherings, and ‘potentially political’ events, which may involve content viewed as politically or socially conflicting.

The move comes after IIT Bombay cancelled a lecture on the historical context of Israel-Palestine and faced scrutiny over a screening of the documentary film ‘Arna’s Children’. The latter event sparked a police complaint which alleged that a controversial figure associated with a Palestinian armed group was praised.

The institute recently called off a scheduled lecture by retired Delhi University professor Achin Vanaik titled ‘Israel Palestine: The Historical Context’. The cancellation prompted attention to another lecture at the HSS department, delivered by Prof Sharmishtha Saha on November 6. The event included a screening of the 2004 documentary film ‘Arna’s Children’, with Sudhanva Deshpande from the Naja Natya Manch (JANAM), New Delhi, introducing the movie.

Subsequently, a group of students from the institute filed a written complaint at the Powai police station last week. The complaint alleged that, as a guest lecturer, Deshpande praised Zakaria Zubeidi, associated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a coalition of Palestinian armed groups. Following the police complaint, a protest was staged at the main gate of IIT Bombay’s Powai campus. In response, the institute administration sent an email to all students, declaring its commitment to developing a policy for organising public events or lectures and establishing a code of conduct for students, faculty and staff to prevent such issues in the future.

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