New Delhi: With protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) continuing on educational campuses across the country, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development is learnt to have asked all technical education institutes and universities to keep a tab on the social media accounts of students and teachers.
The educational institutions have reportedly been asked to monitor Twitter and Facebook accounts, and also WhatsApp groups, of students and teachers to keep themselves abreast of the activities happening on the campuses in the wake of the CAA.
The ministry, in an earlier circular, had asked all universities to connect their social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter to the accounts of their respective college. At that time, the government had said it did not wish to monitor students but just “connect” with them.
According to officials in the ministry, orders have been issued to the registrars and vice-chancellors of central universities and technical institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management, the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and others to keep a tab on the protests and make sure an untoward incident like what happened in Jamia Millia University, where the protests turned violent Sunday, is not repeated.
This has been communicated especially to the administration of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jamia Milia Islamia, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and Delhi University where students have already been taking part in protests, they said.
IIT Guwahati and other education institutes in Assam have also been asked to maintain vigil keeping in mind the recent protests against CAA.
“The orders to keep tab are not just restricted to students but also apply to teachers because a number of teachers have WhatsApp groups on which they discuss protests and mobilise students,” a ministry source said, adding the institutes have also been asked to send a report to the ministry in this regard.
Pokhriyal wants students to keep away from protests
Meanwhile, some institutes have already started telling their faculty not to join protests. TISS issued a circular to all its faculty and staff Thursday asking them not to join any protest since it is a government- funded institution. “This is against the conduct rules and their absence from duty to join protest will be treated as unauthorized,” the circular read.
On being asked about this, an official from HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank’s office said the minister wants students to keep away from the protests.
“He has also appealed to all the political parties to keep students away from protests,” said the official.
On the sidelines of an event in the national capital Thursday, Pokhriyal had said, “With folded hands, I appeal to the political parties to keep academic institutions away from their politics.”
HRD ministry ‘worried’
A day after students in Jamia were attacked by police for protesting against CAA, many campuses across India expressed solidarity with those students and took out protest rallies and candlelight marches to oppose the controversial Act. Late Sunday night, AMU students protesting against the same issue also clashed with the police.
As soon as the news of clash in these two universities spread, students from all over the country joined the protests.
Students from IITs in Bombay, Delhi and Madras, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad, Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow, BHU, Pondicherry University, and Jadavpur University in Kolkata among others joined the protests and expressed solidarity towards the students of Jamia and AMU.
This has made the HRD ministry worried and it wants the universities to keep a tab on the protests now, sources said.
No such instructions issued, says ministry
The Ministry of Human Resource Development Saturday said ThePrint report is incorrect.
“The story published is incorrect. There are no such instructions has been issued to IITs, IIMs, varsities by HRD Ministry (sic),” the HRD ministry spokesperson said in an email. “The news item has been published without verification of facts.”
ThePrint reporter Kritika Sharma responds
ThePrint had contacted the office of HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal for comment and a senior official had confirmed that such instructions had been issued. The official is also quoted in the story as saying that the minister “wants students to stay away from politics”.
A Delhi University official has also since confirmed that the ministry has issued verbal instructions to keep a tab on the protests by tracking social media posts of students.
ThePrint stands by the report.