An admission row in the University of Madras

Published : September 06, 2019 17:43 IST

A view of the University of Madras. Photo: S. Thanthoni

The University of Madras is caught in a controversy relating to the cancellation of admission to a student after having formally admitted him in a course a month ago. The controversy has gained traction in the State as the name of the Tamil Nadu Governor’s office figures in it. The affected student, T. Kirubamohan, has alleged that it exerted undue pressure on the University of Madras to cancel his admission to the two-year postgraduate course in Buddhism in the Department of Philosophy reportedly for his active participation in the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in Chennai.

Kirubamohan was the secretary of the study circle as a postgraduate student of journalism and mass communication at the University of Madras. On completing the course in 2018 he joined a web-based news portal as a journalist and worked for a year. After he was forced to quit the job for extraneous reasons, he decided to study Buddhism in the university’s Department of Philosophy.

He told Frontline that he received provisional admission to the course on July 31, 2019, after submitting the necessary documents and that he had been attending classes since then. “When I was a journalism student, we organised many agitations against various commissions and omissions of the university management within the campus. When I joined a new course at the same university it annoyed the Hindutva forces that have been trying to infiltrate the student community and faculty groups. We in the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle have been stalling them,” he said.

Kirubamohan, a first generation graduate, hails from a poor weavers’ family in Salem district. He alleged that when he got admission to the Buddhism course in the same university it irked some vested interests ranged against the study circle and they exerted pressure on the administration to make him “ineligible” to take the course. He said they succeeded in destroying his higher studies in Buddhism. “The university cancelled my admission by an intimation letter issued by the Office of the Head (in charge) of the Department of Philosophy, Prof. M. Venkatachalapathy. It said: ‘Regarding not approved of provisional admission to M.A Buddhism’ [sic.] and was dated August 28, 2019,” he said.

The intimation letter stated that his provisional admission to the M.A. Buddhism course for the academic year 2019-2020, was not approved because of his failure to satisfy conditions in the University of Madras Students’ Conduct Rules and because he had not submitted a recommendation letter from the Head of the Department where he studied the postgraduate course. The letter further asked him to receive his certificates and the demand draft of Rs.5,305 he had submitted at the time of admission.

Kirubamohan said his admission was rejected on the flimsy ground that he had not produced an eligibility certificate, which he claimed was not necessary for a student who had already studied in another department on the same campus. “When I applied for the course in Buddhism, the Head of the Department had told me that even a Transfer Certificate was not necessary since I had graduated from another department of the university. I gave them my PG provisional certificate,” he said.

In a letter that Kribamohan sent to Tamil Nadu Higher Education Secretary Mangat Ram Sharma, he said the professor claimed that he was under pressure from the Governor’s office and the Vice Chancellor to cancel his admission. “The professor was under pressure to render my admission ineligible. They nursed a grouse against me since I was active in the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle. The Circle organised many protests, all peacefully, against those who came to propagate the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideology on the campus. We staged protests against BJP leaders Tarun Vijay and L. Ganesan. We staged demonstrations against the ban on beef eating at IIT Madras and the new education policy. They thought that I would be an impediment to their agenda of saffronising the campus,” he said.

A report in The Hindu quoted Madras University Vice-Chancellor P. Duraisamy as saying that the student had violated the admission guidelines. He pointed out that the candidate had graduated from Anna University in engineering and then taken a postgraduate degree in journalism in Madras university. “He has not met the conditions of the admission guidelines,” he said and denied any pressure from the Governor’s office in this regard. Kribamohan told Frontline that he would be approaching the court against the withdrawal of his admission.

In Tamil Nadu, there is a growing apprehension that forces of intolerance are trying to gain ground in the State. What lends credence to the apprehension is the experience of the organisers of a meeting in Arani, a town in Tiruvannamalai district. It had to be called off when the owner of the hall where the event was to be held on September 8 withdrew the permission a few days before the event. The meeting was planned by a group of intellectuals and writers to discuss and debate books on the Dravidian leaders C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi.

“Suddenly the hall management withdrew the permission for the literary meeting,” said G. Kuppuswami of the Arani-based literary group Zha Puthakakoodu and one of the organisers. The event was organised to introduce three books in Tamil—Maaperum Tamil Kanavu (C. N. Annadurai), Oru Manidhan, Oru Iyakkam and Therkilirundhu Oru Sooriyan ( both on M. Karunanidhi). Aazhi Senthilnathan, a publisher, and J. Jayaranjan, director of the Centre for Development Alternatives, Chennai, were the main speakers. The aim of the meeting, G. Kuppuswami said, was to enlighten the younger generation on the Dravidian movement.

Stalin’s criticism

The cancellation of the event drew widespread criticism. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M.K. Stalin accused the State government of attempting to muzzle the freedom of speech and pointed out that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government did not hesitate to give permission to “fascist and communal forces to hold their events”. In a statement he further pointed out that it was a mystery as to why the marriage hall proprietor withdrew permission a few days before the event. On the University of Madras issue, the DMK president said the forces inimical to secularism were interfering in the functioning of educational institutions too.

Later, in a sudden development, the literary event at Arani was allowed to be conducted at the same venue and on the scheduled date. As in the case of the cancellation, there was no explanation for the permission being restored.

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