Mumbai: A students body at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences cancelled birth anniversary celebrations of Babasaheb Ambedkar on 14 April because the administration allegedly did not give permission to Sujat Ambedkar, the chief guest and great-grandson of the Dalit icon.
The Ambedkarite Students Association (ASA) said the TISS administration denied permission to Sujat, saying “outsider would not be allowed on campus”.
14 April, 2022 was the 131st birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, a key architect of India’s Consitutition and champion of Dalit and women’s rights.
ASA member Elaiya Kumar said the administration had shot down an earlier proposal of three-day celebrations to just one. Kumar said, “We were okay with that too. But they did not mention Sujat in any of their conversations. They just said outsiders would not be allowed. They did not give any other reason.”
Sujat Ambedkar is the son of Prakash Ambedkar, founder of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi party in Maharashtra.
ASA members said they submitted an application for the event – along with their choice of chief guest – on 8 April. Though the event got permission, “outsider” Ambedkar did not, students said.
It would have been embarrassing to go on with the programme since Sujat Ambedkar had already confirmed his presence, ASA members added.
In a meeting later, ASA decided to call off the event “in order to offer the last shred of respect to Sujat Ambedkar”.
ThePrint called Dean, Academic Affairs Professor P.K. Shahjahan, and also wrote to Dean of Students Affairs Asha Banu and the Registrar. But phone calls and emails did not elicit any response from the TISS administration
When ThePrint got in touch with Sujat Ambedkar he said, “this is a tussle between the students and administration and I don’t want to comment on the same but it is an observation that freedom of speech of students has been curtailed across the country under this BJP regime.”
What about other ‘outsiders’, asks ASA?
The students body said many “outsiders” had entered the campus after the Maharashtra government lifted all Covid-19 restrictions last month.
“Outsiders” came for the State of India Education Report Launch on 6 April and the Service Training Programme for 20 All India Service Officers on Social Policy and Governance from March 21-25, ASA said.
They added that authorities also approved Holi celebrations on campus grounds.
“But to not allow the great-grandson of Dr Ambedkar on the day of his Jayanti celebrations – without providing a reason – is deeply humiliating, discriminatory and casteist against the Dalit community,” ASA said.
“We, the students from marginalised communities, think that to not allow Dr Ambedkar’s family member on campus is a modern form of untouchability,” they said.
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