IIT-Bombay issued a clarification today after a mail from the Dean of Student Affairs warned students against taking part in "anti-national activities". In a brief statement the prestigious centrally-funded institution said it was "not against peaceful expression of opinion in individual capacity" and that the detailed 15-point notification sent to students was a reminder of "standard and existing" hostel rules.
On Wednesday the institute sent out an email that cautioned students against participating in "anti-national, anti-social and/or any other undesirable activities". However, the mail, which comes amid allegations by activists and the opposition that the ruling BJP seeks to stifle critics by labelling them "anti-national", did not specify what such activities were.
"With reference to several articles published regarding the hostel conduct rules, IIT-Bombay wishes to clarify that the institute is not against any peaceful expression of opinion in individual capacity," the statement said.
"With regard to recent circular, we wish to reiterate that these are standard and existing rules for hostels assimilated from all IITs & were sent to all students to remind them to abide by hostel rules and not disturb the peaceful academic atmosphere," it added.
All 15 points were to be "strictly implemented hereafter from this day of January 28, 2020".
IIT-Bombay students were among hundreds who gathered earlier this month at the city's iconic Gateway of India in a "spontaneous" protest against the brutal mob attack (as well as the controversial citizenship law and the NRC) on their counterparts in Delhi's JNU.
Similar protests also broke out last month - again including IIT Mumbai students - after what started as a peaceful protest march by students of Delhi's Jamia Millia University ended in a pitched battle with cops that left at least 60 injured.
Shortly after the attacks, faculty at IIT-Bombay came out in support of the "right to dissent and protest democratically within academic campuses" and outside.
A day before the JNU violence, a similar letter emerged from IIT-Kanpur, where the administration was criticized for a probe into claims students protesting against the citizenship law had hurt sentiments.
The letters reflect a significant departure for IITs, or Indian Institutes of Technology, world-acclaimed institutions that have always been seen to be apolitical. However, like employees in any government-run institution, the IIT faculty has limited freedom to criticise central policies.
With input from ANI