The Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai has suspended Dalit student and PhD scholar Ramadas Prini Sivanadan for two years for participating in protests against the Bharatiya Janata Party government, the Progressive Students’ Forum alleged in a statement on Friday.

Ramadas, who is also a student leader, had received a show cause notice from the institution’s registrar on March 7 objecting to his activism, specifically his participation in the Parliament March in Delhi in January and his post on social media encouraging students to watch the documentary Ram Ke Naam as an “‘anti-national’ act”, the forum claimed in a statement.

Ram Ke Naam is a National Film Award-winning 1992 documentary by filmmaker Anand Patwardhan about the campaign by Hindutva groups to build a Ram temple at the site of the erstwhile Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The students’ association said that the documentary has been officially screened at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the past, that it is publicly available for viewing and has also been screened by state broadcaster Doordarshan. “The current TISS administration, however, wants to censure voices even in the online space in what students want to share and talk about,” the forum alleged.

The Parliament March was organised by student groups to protest the 2020 National Education Policy. “However, by suspending and debarring entry into campus for two years, the TISS administration is indirectly trying to curb all dissent against the BJP government,” the student body alleged.

The forum also said that the institute had accused Ramadas of organising the annual Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture with “controversial speakers” on campus. The speakers have included academics and human rights activists including two Ramon Magsaysay awardees, P Sainath and Bezwada Wilson, the organisation highlighted.

“The administration has never officially objected to the lecture on account of having ‘controversial speakers’,” the students’ group said. “That the administration thinks this way is a blot on the academic credentials of the institute.”

The forum alleged that a crackdown on student voices resisting the policies of the BJP government “is very much evident in these actions”.

“These actions of the administration clearly highlight a trend of active support of the ruling BJP government at the cost of the future of students coming from marginalised backgrounds,” the student organisation said. “The administration has been taking rampant actions against any form of student dissent, especially following its takeover by the Central government last year and the appointment of new leadership in all high-ranking administrative positions.”

On March 13, the students’ union at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences had expressed concerns about freedom of expression after restrictions were placed on student activities. It also criticised the “unprofessional, insensitive communication” issued by the administration in the matter.

Also read: Restrictions on activities infringing on academic freedom: TISS students’ union