Dalit PhD scholar was suspended for ‘repetitive misconduct’, claims TISS amid backlash

Dalit student and PhD scholar Ramadas Prini Sivanadan was suspended for two years due to “repetitive misconduct over a period of time”, claimed the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai on Saturday.

Ramadas, who is also a student leader, had received a show cause notice from the institution’s registrar on March 7 objecting to his activism, specifically his participation in the Parliament March in Delhi in January, said the Progressive Students’ Forum in a statement on Friday.

On Saturday, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences said the backlash against Ramadas’ suspension on social media is “malicious propaganda”.

“Throughout his tenure, Ramadas KS exhibited 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 said. “Despite repeated verbal and written advisories from the TISS Administration to prioritise academic commitments, Ramadas KS failed to comply.”

The notice also listed various activities by Ramadas inside as well as outside of the institute campus that were against the code for students, It said he was given “repeated warnings”.

One of the incidents the notice mentioned pertained to Ramadas’ invitation to “controversial speakers” for an event. However, his proposal was “rightfully denied by the TISS Administration as it was not organised by the Official Student Union of TISS”, the notice said.

In response to the administration’s refusal of the proposal, Ramadas had launched a midnight protest outside the house of the vice-chancellor.

“This unruly agitation caused serious disruption, anarchy and mayhem in the campus in the night where all other family and students stay in residences and hostels,” said the notice.

It said Ramadas “posted pamphlets on social media for an unauthorised screening” of the documentary Ram Ke Naam at the Mumbai campus of the institution on January 22, the day of the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

“This documentary, deemed propaganda by the Government of India, was not sanctioned for viewing on Pram Pratistha Diwas,” said the notice.

The institute also mentioned the prolonged occupancy of hostel facilities by Ramadas to justify its action.

“His unlawful overstay in the hostel has seriously and genuinely deprived other deserving PhD Scholars who were waiting in the queue,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday demanded that Ramadas’ suspension be revoked immediately. The Dalit scholar is a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Students’ Federation of India.

“The charges leading to his suspension also include encouraging others to watch Ram Ke Naam, a national award-winning documentary,” said the United Students of India. “Such a pseudo-nationalistic evaluation of students by the TISS administration can only be viewed as an attempt to crush the voices of dissent against the BJP-Sangh Parivar.”

The United Students of India include student organisations of the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Left parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Rashtriya Janata Dal

The student union alleged that the action by the institution’s administration was an attempt to appease the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Victimising a student from Dalit background also aligns with the BJP’s broader project to exclude students from marginalized communities from higher education,” it said. “Such actions undoubtedly tarnish the independent academic credibility of the institute.”

On March 13, the students’ union at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences had expressed concerns about freedom of expression after restrictions were placed on student activities. It also criticised the “unprofessional, insensitive communication” issued by the administration in the matter.

Also read: The price that Umar Khalid is paying for dissenting in Modi’s India

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