IITB asks faculty, students to get approval for guest speakers' talks to avoid 'political, controversial' content

IITB asks faculty, students to get approval for guest speakers' talks to avoid 'political, controversial' content

Mumbai, Nov 16 (PTI) The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) has asked its faculty members and students to get its prior approval if they plan to invite external speakers for a talk or to screen documentaries/movies if the content may be construed as 'political or potentially controversial'.

But there is no need for such permission if the talk/content is purely non-political, the guidelines issued by the institute two days back said.

The development comes days after a protest was held outside the IITB campus against guest speakers for allegedly glorifying terrorism while talking about the Palestinian freedom struggle against Israel.

The 'Interim guidelines on holding of events at IIT Bombay', issued on November 14, state that for the events involving external speakers, or screenings of movies/documentaries, the Dean obtains clearance from a committee appointed by the Director before approving the event.

The guidelines were posted on social media site X by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, a left-leaning students' body, which termed it as a 'gag' order.

When contacted through a message over the issue, there was no response from the IIT Bombay.

'Faculty members planning to invite external speakers, or to screen documentaries/movies, whether it is part of their academic activity or otherwise shall take prior approval from the Head of the Academic unit,' the guidelines state.

'However, there is no need for such permissions if the talk/content is purely non-political and has absolutely no content that may be construed as political or potentially controversial,' the document said.

Students can organise events only through the recognised body of the campus, which is part of the students gymkhana, after approval of the Dean, it said.

'For events involving external speakers, or screening of movies/documentaries, (the) Dean obtains clearance from a committee appointed by the Director before approving the event,' it added.

In order to vet the external speakers, an External Speakers Review Committee will be appointed by the IITB Director which will review the details of the speaker/videos including the speaker's biodata, abstract of the talk, public links on the speaker and talk, copies of recorded material to be played at the event. The information must be provided by the faculty member who is hosting the event/talk/seminar.

The guidelines were issued after a protest was held on November 11 outside the IITB seeking the arrest of a professor and a guest speaker for allegedly glorifying terrorism while talking about the Palestinian freedom struggle against Israel.

According to the protesters, Professor Sharmistha Saha of the Humanities and Social Sciences department of the prestigious institution and guest speaker Sudhanva Deshpande, during a talk under academic course 'HS 835 Performance Theory & Praxis' on November 6, had allegedly spoken highly of 'terrorists' and armed rebellion.

Protesters under the aegis of the Vivek Vichar Manch, a body linked to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), claimed Deshpande had glorified Palestinian terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi, who is allegedly part of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade that has been designated as a terror organisation by several countries, and had even admitted to meeting him in 2015. PTI PR NP

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