The student movement of TISS started on 21st February 2018 with the slogan, “We demand our rights, not begging anyone”. It has been four months now and despite many conflicts and problems, the protest is continuing. The reason for the movement is the closing of TISS’s OBC students’ scholarship, and asking the Dalit-tribal and minority students who come from poor families to pay the fees. Over the past 4 months, there has been a strong disappointment in students towards the government and TISS.
TISS is the first institute to teach social work in India. And TISS has made a different identity in Asia, India and the whole world. The researches conducted by TISS itself has a lot of importance. Over years, TISS has conducted researches for many such socially disadvantaged communities. Students coming to the institute are from the such backward communities but since last four months they have not seen relief.
In 2015, scholarships were cut for OBC students, now the position gradually seems to be shifting towards Dalit-tribal students. As such, the students associated with these communities are seen to be facing difficulties. Statistics also point to the fact that due to the increase of fees and no scholarshis the enrolment of OBC students in the institute has declined.
Mostly Dalits, tribals, OBC students who are economically weaker study in this institution with the help of scholarships. Despite the interaction, meetings, agitation in TISS, the students did not lose their motivation if they did not get any solutions. The movement against the policy of TISS Admin under the leadership of the student union began thereafter. The main demand of this movement is that the students who are Dalit, tribal ,OBCs should be given scholarships to get higher education so that these students can complete their education.
There are students in this institution whose family has an annual income of Rs 20000 to Rs 50000. The institute is now asking them to fill in half-yearly (one semester of 6 months) fees of Rs 30000 . Now how wil these students be able to pay such a huge amount, only the government and TISS can answer that.
There are many first generation learners from mostly Dalit-tribal backgrounds who have enrolled for higher education in a well-known institute like TISS, but these students now think that if they themselves cannot study here, then how will their brother, sister or anyone from their community be able to study here? If this continues then for sure Dalit, Tribal and OBC students would not be able to study in this institute in future.
The number of OBC students is getting lower since 2015. In 2016.The OBC student enrollment has been declining over the years if we look at the figures. In 2012 , total 24% OBC students enrolled, in 2013, 28% students enrolled while in 2014 total 22% enrolled, In 215, the OBC student enrollment in the institute was twenty percent which moved down to 18% during 2016-17. This was revealed by a done RTI. Many efforts were made to crush the movement of the students, where the students had to face memes, notices, court cases and many difficulties (desppite all this, the students have taken care of their studies, which is very important). Many rumors were spread, but that had no effect either on the agitation or on the students. Rather, the students met the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes after which the Commission asked TISS to intervene with the issues of the students.
Along with TISS Mumbai campus, this movement was spread rapidly across Tuljapur, Hyderabad, Guwahati , which resulted in students sitting on Anshan and Dharna in Hyderabad and Guwahati campuses. But the agitating students did not harm anyone or harass anybody. The whole movement is still going on peacefully in the Mumbai campus. This is visible in the form of the posters of Andolan and other revolutionaries in front of the main gate. But the issue raised is not just concerning the students of these two-three campuses, it concerns all those upcoming students as well who will never be able to read in institutions like TISS. Specially those students who are from supressed communities or groups and are economically very weak. So it becomes the resonsibility of institutions such as TISS to make the way easier for the education of such students rather than focussing only on the elite class of students.
Concerning the protest,one needs to know that the gate was closed for the staff and students but the people who had a genuine roblem due to some reason were allowed to commute through the gate. Even after such a huge movement was going on, the classes, reading and writing of the students did not stop. The students conducted lectures, meetings, studies in a shack made of granules , wood and broken banners near the gate. Students slept near the gate, sang songs of the movement. A daily routine was made to follow up with the admin to meet the demands of the students. Many social organizations came to the events of protest and gave their support to students.
Mainstream media brought this issue to the public and the government but that did not show much benefit. In March, the students came to know from the Social Welfare office that that the scholarship of the OBC community students was not actually stoped. This fact was hidden from the students who were told that it was closed. Because of this, a lot of OBC community students could not come in TISS, who would take responsibility for this thing? Not only from the whole of India but also from renowned organizations like Oxford, Berke Beck, Cambridge University , Boston Study Group, Harward and other organizations (National Law University, Bhopal, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Manipur) came forward to support this movement. At such a time why did only a few TISS professors come in support of the movement?
Following the SC and ST commission hearings, the Commission gave guide lines to TISS. After talking to the HRD ministers, TISS was soon given Rs 11 crores on behalf of the Central Government, but that did not bring any relief to the scholarship issue. An independent committee was formed from the governing board, but this committee did not talk to the protesting students.Despite framing court cases against students, TISS did not stop. It sent show cause notice to those students and asked answers from the agitating students.This caused a lot of distress among students but they didnt loose hope because students from different communities were involved with this. Some students refused to take their degrees in the convocation ceremony and they supported the movement. They believe that they can take this degree this year, but the new generation of dalit tribals coming up can not take this degree in this institute.
Now the TISS Admin is even creating problems with the JRF scholarships of those students who were involved in the protest. If we think seriously about all of this, we will understand that the colleges of higher education run by the government fund in the entire country are being p ushed towards privatisation. If we look at it closely, we realize that a Dalit OBC student can no more study in such institutions. Till today, India does not spend more than 5% of its overall budget on education, which does not seem to be good for a country dreaming of becoming a super power.
Agitating students say that the movement is not complete untill their demands are fulfilled. For this, the students are using Ambedkar’s message of “Educate-Agitate-Organize”. For many years these backward communities have been kept away from education. Today when these societies are coming forward to get education they are facing injustice here too. That is why this society will have to fight to read and read to fight.
Despite registration in the Mphil-PHD integrated program ,Tata institute, Mumbai has denied the PHD registration of previous union general secretary, Fahad Ahmad, who has cleared his Mphil course. Since 21st February 2018, there is protest going on in the campus over a withdrawal of financial aid of SC/ST student. Few days ago institute has issued notice to Fahad, which says that his registration to the PhD is subject to the findings of the inquiry committee. We reached out to the Fahad , he said that, institute is targeting selective student who participated in the protest. Not only this but several students who had participated in the protest their JRF ( junior research fellowship ) has been stopped by institute.
TISS, Mumbai New Student Union
Jit Hazarika, is the newly elected TISS student union president. Election which was held on 27th July 2018 had impact of protesting student, where the pro- protesting and pro-student union has won the major seats in the new union. Seven out of five seats are from protesting student representative. Since the protest has started lots incidents and arguments happened between student and institute officials, over scholarship and withdrawal of aid to SC/ST. Show cause notice and court cases filed against protesting student has created trust deficit between admin and students.This is the first big victory of protesting student which will give more strength in fighting for students problems in the campus.