Tata Institute of Social Sciences sent legal notices to six of its students on Tuesday for allegedly “instigating and inciting” others on campus to “strike and agitate in various forms”. The institute said the students continued their protests even after the varsity discussed with them the controversial decision to withdraw financial aid to students from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

Students of all four campuses of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Mumbai, Hyderabad, Maharashtra’s Tuljapur and Guwahati – have been on strike since February 21 to protest against the institute’s decision to withdraw financial aid to students from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes who are eligible for the Central government’s post-matriculation scholarships. The strike is supported by various student unions and TISS alumni.

The institute sent memos to 15 students, warning them of strict action if they did not call off their protest, a statement by the students’ general body said. Of them, six students have been summoned to a Mumbai court on Wednesday afternoon.

The students alleged that the administration was trying to “intimidate” and “selectively target” them. They called the legal notices “gravely undemocratic”, and said those were sent despite the director’s assurance of a discussion on Wednesday. They said the notices were based on “exaggerated narratives”, adding that they were protesting only to seek a dialogue with the administration. They said their protests were not to “gain political mileage or create nuisance”.

In its lawsuit, the institute claimed that it followed government rules for scholarship students. As it has no “resources of its own income”, the institute was “compelled” to issue the notification to demand upfront payment of various fees at the stage of admission itself.

The strike

The students’ association has claimed that the institute has withdrawn all forms of financial aid to students. “All talks and mediation with the administration over the past many months have failed,” TISS Students’ Union President Archana Soreng had said in February. “We are boycotting all classes, field work and submissions.”

The administration has demanded that the 2017-’19 batch pay for hostel and dining hall as the notification was out in May 2017 before they took admission, Soreng said. “But the argument cannot be bought as the notification was released in May 2017 in between the admission process, not before the admission process was initiated,” she added.

On March 12, several students of the institute’s Guwahati campus began an indefinite hunger strike, demanding that tuition fees, dining hall and hostel fees be waived for underprivileged students who want to join the institute from June.