Over the last few months, Tata Institute of Social Sciences campuses across the country have been witnessing massive protests by students who are demanding the administration overturn its decision to cut off fee waiver to SC, ST & OBC students. Refusing to back off, a few students have refused their degrees at the convocation this year.
The Quint spoke to Fahad Ahmad, general secretary of the TISS students’ union and one of the students who rejected his MPhil degree during convocation this year. Fahad said 9 students in total have rejected their degrees from the Mumbai campus alone in TISS this year.
“There are a few students who are not coming forward and talking about it. There are just three students who have come forward and agreed that they have rejected their degree. But as per my knowledge, total 9 students have rejected their degree” said Fahad. But what pushed him to take this stand?
“The reason I refused is because the person who was supposed to give me the degree is the highest decision-making person of this institute but he never listened to us and the reason for our protest. I went up to him and tried to give him a letter because he represented the Tatas. Just a few days ago, the Tatas gave Rs 327 crores to Oxford and the issues that we were fighting for just requires about Rs 3 crore per annum. I was just requesting him to solve this matter through the Tatas. Even we don’t like sleeping on the roads the way we have been for the last 80 days, we too want to end our struggle and Rs 3 crore is not that big an amount for the Tatas. But he refused to discuss this with me and refused to take the letter.”Fahad Ahmad, general secretary of the TISS students’ union
Students at TISS have been agitating inside their campus since February 2018, ever since the university administration issued a notification asking SC and ST students to pay up Rs 12,500 and OBC students to pay over Rs 30,000.
“Earlier, we were allowed entry into the university for Rs 4500. After that, the Govt of India’s post matriculation scholarship used to arrive and some of the amount used to be provided by the institute and after being merged, the amount used to be enough but now OBC students need to pay Rs 76,000 for 6 months. Because of this, the number of OBC students has dropped from 27% to 18% now. No other public university in our country is charging such high fees.”Fahad Ahmad, general secretary of the TISS students’ union
While his decision is bound to have consequences, Fahad has refused to change his stand. With no MPhil degree at hand, his PhD aspirations could suffer a setback. “I don’t know what will happen. There were rumours that they won’t allow me to take that degree and my parents are pressurising me.”
During the convocation ceremony, Fahad had walked up to the stage and tried handing over a memorandum to the chairman of the governing board at TISS. However, his memorandum wasn’t accepted, and he walked off the stage without accepting his degree.
“After the convocation, the administration hasn’t come to us. I have just written them a letter asking, even if we do celebrate our convocation today, then how will the next generation of students manage in these conditions? Today, about 2% of our population have access to resources and opportunities. If this continues, then only that 2% will get a degree. How is this the social justice that TISS stands for? I wrote them a letter telling them this but I haven’t received a response.”Fahad Ahmad, general secretary of the TISS students’ union
For now, Fahad is hoping his message to the University administration will help pave the way for a dialogue between the affected students and officials.
Camera: Gautam Sharma
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