IIT-B students file complaint against professor, pro-Hamas speaker
Students from IIT Bombay have filed a police complaint against a professor and a guest lecturer who expressed support for Hamas and terrorists during a lecture. The students demanded an FIR be registered against the professor and the lecturer. The lecture took place as part of a coursework on November 6. The police have confirmed receiving the complaint and said further action would be decided later. In response to the controversy, the lecturer issued a statement on social media explaining the context of the film shown during the lecture. IIT-B has also cancelled another lecture on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Students from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have approached police alleging that a professor had invited a guest lecturer who in his talk expressed support for Hamas and terrorists.
A complaint filed by Omkar Supekar, a student of humanities and social science, at Powai police station demanded that an FIR be registered against professor Sharmishtha Saha and Sudhanva Deshpande who is known for his association with Jana Natya Manch and is considered a radical leftist.
The lecture took place on November 6 as part of HS 835: Performance Theory.
“On November 6, as part of coursework, a screening of a documentary based on Palestine was scheduled. After this, the professor invited Deshpande as a speaker. Before the event, we had raised an objection to his speech, but the IIT-B administration did not take any cognisance of our complaint,” Supekar said.
The complainant alleged that Deshpande praised Zakaria Zubeidi, who is associated with Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and specialises in suicide bombings and claimed responsibility for a terror attack, as a ‘visionary’.
A police officer confirmed that they had received the complaint and said that further course of action would be decided later.
According to an account on X, ‘IIT B for Bharat’, the professor invited Deshpande to glorify Palestinian militants Zubeidi and Ghassan Kanafani under the guise of a documentary when the vice president of India visited the institute.
In response to this controversy, Deshpande issued a statement on social media that said, “The film, ‘Arna’s Children’, shows the work of a theatre for children established by Arna Mer, Juliano’s mother, and an Israeli Jewish person herself. Juliano Mer Khamis was assassinated outside Freedom Theatre in 2011. Juliano had previously served in the Israeli army.”
His statement further said that Fatah is currently led by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. “Yaseer Arafat’s leadership and the Palestinian freedom struggle have historically been recognised by India. In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation, led by Arafat, as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
On November 7, IIT-B cancelled a talk titled ‘Israel-Palestine: The Historical Context’, which was to be delivered by Achin Vanaik.
Highlighting the curtailment of academic freedom at IIT-B, a student collective from the campus published a statement.
“We condemn this denial of academic space for these issues by the administration. Cancellation of these planned events under the pretext of ‘unforeseen circumstances’ has become so routinised and recurrent that it has become almost foreseeable now. Despite the motto of the institute being “jnanam paramam dheyam” - knowledge is the supreme goal - it seems there is much effort being wasted into keeping us all ignorant,” the collective, IIT Bombay for Justice, said.