This year, when 20- year old student committed suicide at IIT Madras, it was the fourth cases of suicide in the campus this year. Earlier a 32- year old PhD scholar Sachin Kumar committed suicide in the campus. The only active student organisation in the campus ChintaBar came to light after they highlighted the issue that the guide of Sachin Kumar was subjecting Kumar to undue pressure and the internal investigation committee should also probe that angle.
The organisation is practically the only functional Student collective in IIT Madras after Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle which originated from the campus became defunct after most of its founding members passed out. Ironically, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle is now active in IIT Mumbai and recently revealed that how the IITS have rendered SC/ST cells meaningless the through the RTIs filed by them.
Chintabar: Chinta bar was founded on the same day as another student collective Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti on 14th April, 2014. Speaking to The Mooknayak , a student enrolled in the PhD course of IIT Madras and a senior member of the organisation says that the basic idea was to have a democratic space within the IIT Madras. He says that though the campus had a student collective in the name of Vivekananda Study Circle, but it was more about spirituality and self- introspection. But ChintaBar and APSSC was founded as a study circle to talk about space beyond IITs; to discuss issues of Politics economy and so on.
The organisation, though confined to IIT Madras extends support to struggles of students across all the campuses; for example they supported Vikrant Singh, a PhD scholar Vikrant Singh at IIT Guwahati after he was terminated by the administration over a social media post he shared in October 2020. For functioning as a student collective inside IIT Madras, an organisaiton has to chose a faculty advisor of their choice.
The research scholar says that “ We founded a sub-committee and using the annual reports and the RTIs we observed that how the IITs have violated reservations, particularly in the PG and research courses . We got our question raised in the parliament through parties like CPI(M) and VCK and this is an ongoing process.
As in the case of reservation for the students, the organisation has been doing the same work as we did in the case of student reservation through collaboration with outside organisation.
He says that on caste there is exclusion at the level of entry. And once inside there is not enough mechanism to address the grievances. There are two-fold issue: There is no proper SC/ST cell and the liaison officers are not effective.
The other issue that the collective has been emphasising upon is mental health. So, in 2019 January Chinta Bar passed a resolution passed in the students legislative body demanding a serious study comprising psychologist, sociologist to understand the fault lines of mental health and caste, class, gender. The administration agreed but nothing happened on the issue but after a hunger strike they gave it in writing and in the last two months and external study is being conducted by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health Neurosciences )
Chinta Bar also organises activities which sensitise the students to developments outside IITs. So recently on the occasion of May Day, they conducted a film screening of movie ‘Made in Bangladesh” a movie which depicts the oppressive working conditions in sweatshops highlighting the low wages that the workers are paid.
On this occasion the labour policies initiated by the government came under attack from the collective.
The other issue on which they took some stand was the decision of the NCERT to remove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution from the class 9 and 10th science text books. The organisation viewed this step as an attempt to impose regressive views in science education and said that “ Scientific thinking must be inculcated and nourished in all the levels of education for the better future of our country.”
The collective found with the objective of democratising the space has emerged as a voice of students on various issues concerning the campus and also the country. It needs to be seen that how Chinta Bar manages to redress the issues afflicting the students, particularly those from the marginalised sections.
You can also join our WhatsApp group to get premium and selected news of The Mooknayak on WhatsApp. Click here to join the WhatsApp group.