Friday, September 1, 2017

Treatment of Alum at IITK

The following has been written by Mr. Vaibhav Vaish, a 2004 graduate of IIT Kanpur. It has been reposted here with minor editing and formatting changes with his permission. This refers to an incident on August 30th, 2017.

[A more readable and formatted version of below letter is posted at…/0B0L0SZqvEK56bGozN2prR2xnb1E/view . Also note that I am traveling and will be slow in response.]

Dear friends,

#1. Incidence
#2. Some pertinent questions
#3. A request

#1. The incidence

I want to narrate an incidence which happened with me on our campus (IITK) today. I am officially visiting IITK for academic reasons and am staying put in the VH. Being an alumnus (BTech/EE/2000-2004), I still have a continuous connect with campus members (mostly faculty), some of whom I am in close touch with.

Since there was an Open House in L-19 (faculty and students, administration was also invited but didn't turn up) on a recent issue* at IITK campus, This was being organized by around fifteen faculty members, several of whom I knew personally, and they also invited me to attend the same. However, when I reached there, the security denied me entry, saying that the "permission" is for faculty and students only, not for alumni. It was not personal, since they realized this only after asking for my I card -- but have we come to this that at a meeting organized by students and faculty, the institute decides who can or cannot come? And the alumni are no longer welcome?

At this one of the faculty member became very upset, and asked me to go in and said she would talk with the security. There were other faculty members who intervened as well, one of them told the security personally that he will take any responsibility. I really had to speak less than a sentence to the security and instead I just went in and attended the whole meeting, to my mind it was a minor confusion.

The meeting itself was attended by, apart from students, around two dozen faculty members. A few faculty members gave a presentation, yet another convened, and several faculty members and students spoke at length. I knew many of them personally, and they certainly wanted me there. Altogether around 150 students and faculty members attended the event.

After the discussion got over, we went out, and it is then that I realized, the security has brought in UP police to question me! Apart from UP police, there were also a dozen security guards. Again nothing personal, clearly, but ... really? They wanted to "take me aside, just to ask questions". Only when several faculty members, including some younger faculty members, vigorously questioned them that they relented and we were let go. Again, I had to speak less than a sentence, but throughout, the security was also very threatening toward the faculty members present, as well as the students. Note in particular that it was not the police but the campus security which was threatening; the UP police person just seemed amused. Also note that through-out the event, the campus-security guards were wearing cameras, and recording everything, and I only hope they would make public anything and everything they recorded so that this conversation is truly public.

In the meeting I also learnt that a Hall-1 student was "brought to SIS control room for questioning" one day before the Open House meeting because he was putting up posters for this meeting in Hall 5. The argument they made: there is no permission for putting up posters that they are aware of. So now a separate permission is needed to put up posters by a student in a student hostel?

I also heard of some other sad accounts indicating of how much of a security state the campus has turned into, but many of them are too horrendous and still unverified to be posted publicly.

#2. Some pertinent questions

Is this what we have come to?
• Are the students and faculty now indeed required to show ID cards just before entering a lecture hall whenever the administration so wishes?
• That the students and faculty can no longer invite an alumnus to a meeting they organize if the administration does not want it?
• That the security is now superior even to faculty members, abusing them at will?
• That for a matter such as above, the security is expected to bring in the police?
• That the students can no longer advertise an event in the student hostels, even when there is an express permission for the event to take place?

These were the stories I (due to my erstwhile connect with Prayas) kept hearing from servant quarter kids living in campus: how public playground (including one contributed by the alumni!) is violently denied to them. These were the stories I kept hearing from the workers (due to my erstwhile connect with Hamara Manch): how even a gathering of a few can be enough grounds for firing. But this is the first time I saw it in action. Truly, at this stage, the question that is really running in my mind is:

• Has the institute really become like a police state?

#3. A request.

I do not really know if the institute has really become like a security run state or not, but I do certainly know, it shouldn't. Certainly not a public institution, certainly not my alma-mater, certainly not IITK.

I was talking to some faculty members after what had happened - they told me they will raise it vigorously within the campus, faculty forum, and faculty senate. I could see one of my old professors just looking too dejected to even respond. But it seems to me that we as alumni need to ask questions too, lest we lose the democratic space of our alma-mater of which we are all proud of.

In this age, when we seem to have become numb to signature campaigns and FB posts, I would request all the alumni who feel about this issue, to call the Director's office** directly. A lot more is at stake here than just someone not being allowed in by the security and in spite of being an alumni. For, by all accounts, this is not an isolated incidence.

I am being optimistic, perhaps hoping against hope, that if we question the authorities enough as a community, we can indeed force the administration to act on this situation.

With regards,

Vaibhav Vaish

PS: Any queries are welcome, but please do note that I am traveling and may be slow in response.

*The Open House itself was organized to discuss the events unfolding in Visitors' Hostel, the invitation for this event can be found at
** From IITK website, director’s phone number is: +91-512-259 7220

No comments:

Post a Comment