CHENNAI: The students of IIT Madras have accused the administration of moral policing, following a raid in their hostels by the vigilance police of the institute.
The raid was recently conducted on the pretext of finding contraband items from hostel rooms. However, following the raid, the authorities have put up a notice on the list of complaints registered (about the presence of contraband items) along with the names of the students and the penalty they have to pay.
The list of the “prohibited” items recovered during the raid included used condoms, cigarette butts, empty packets, match boxes, etc., along with electronic devices such as iron boxes, kettles and egg boilers. The list also mentions a student who was staying in his friend’s room at the time of the raid.
Interestingly, the penalty for used condoms and cigarette butts is double the amount of penalty for electronic devices. The students who were found with a dustbin of cigarette ash and condoms are instructed to pay a sum of Rs 5,000, whereas those who were using kettles and egg boilers need to pay Rs 2,500.
After an outcry, the list has been now removed from the notice board, but its pictures are being widely circulated on social media, with the administration drawing severe flak.
The hostel raids seem to be a common phenomenon in the IIT-Madras campus. Speaking with Newsclick, a PhD scholar, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the vigilance team conducted raids frequently, and it always felt like a “breach of privacy”.
The people in the vigilance team are said to be ex-servicemen, and are expected to check whether any of the hostel rules are being violated. But, the students alleged, that they are often harassed by members of the vigilance team.
“They can enter our rooms anytime and can look into anything. They ask us to open our wardrobes and take pictures if they see something that they don’t like,” said a student.
Students said this was the first time the administration had published a list of names and penalties in, perhaps, an attempt to name and shame the students.
This is not the first such instance of moral policing that has targeted a university. In 2016, Gyandev Ahuja, BJP MLA from Rajasthan, had claimed that 3,000 used condoms, 10,000 cigarette butts and 500 used abortion kits were found daily in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
Of late, moral policing is being widely used as a tool by several university administrations for intimidating students across the country.
Earlier this year, IIT-Madras students had organised a ‘hug day’ protest against such moral policing. The protest was a follow-up of a complaint registered by a female student who saw an official in the campus clicking pictures of her as she hugged a male friend. When asked about this, the official reportedly had said that he took the photo to show to his kids, and teach them about “inappropriate” behaviour. The person later had to apologise and deleted the pictures.
Talking to Newsclick, another PhD scholar, who wished to remain anonymous, said that on-campus staff members often make lewd comments about the girl students who visit boys’ hostel. “They check the rooms where female students often visit. They check the register to find out which room the girls are visiting. Once, when I met with an accident, and was bedridden, some friends came to visit me. The vigilance team just barged into my room and clicked our photos. They had to apologise and delete those since we created a fuss about it”.
Meanwhile, Chinta Bar, a study circle in the IIT-Madras campus, is trying to conduct discussions and find solution for such issues. But, the pressure from the faculty and the administration has been holding them back from mobilising the students, the scholar added.
Newsclick tried to contact the students’ dean of IIT-Madras. But, he said he could only respond through the media cell of the institute. However, the media cell hasn’t still responded to the queries sent by Newsclick. We will update the story as and when we get a response.