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Friday, July 12, 2024

IIT Bombay Imposes ₹1.2 Lakh Fine on Each Student: Here’s Why

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has fined eight students for staging a controversial play titled ‘Raahovan,’ believed to be a parody of Ramayana, during the institute’s Performing Arts Festival (PAF) on March 31.

A section of students had formally complained against the play, alleging that it was loosely based on the revered Hindu epic Ramayana and had derogatory references to Hindu beliefs and deities. Some students alleged that the play lampooned the lead characters and mocked cultural values in the guise of “promoting feminism”. The complaints led to a disciplinary committee meeting on May 8, resulting in the penalties announced on June 4.

The institute imposed fines of ₹ 1.2 lakh each on four students – the amount is almost the same as a semester’s tuition fee. Four other students were fined ₹ 40,000 each. Graduating students faced additional sanctions, including a ban from the institute’s gymkhana awards given to students. Junior students were debarred from hostel facilities.

The penalties are due on July 20, 2024, at the office of the Dean of Student Affairs. The institute warned that any breach of this penalty would result in further sanctions.

The controversy gained traction on social media when the ‘IIT B for Bharat’ group denounced the play on April 8, citing it as a mockery of Lord Ram and the Ramayana. The group posted video clips from the performance, alleging that the students misused academic freedom to ridicule revered figures.

The videos that went viral on the internet show students presenting a play allegedly inspired by Ramayana characters and plot settings. In one video, a student, allegedly playing Sita, praises her “kidnapper” and the place she was taken to.

“We welcome the disciplinary action taken by the IIT Bombay administration against those involved in the play ‘Raahovan,’ which depicted the Ramayana in a derogatory manner,” the group stated on social media platform X. “We urge the administration to establish guidelines to ensure that no religion is ridiculed under the guise of freedom of expression on campus.”

While certain groups appreciated the institution’s decision to initiate disciplinary action against the students, some have condemned it as an attack on freedom of expression.

“I had always heard that educational institutions should be safe spaces, safe for voicing opinions. Alas, even IITs are no longer safe spaces,” wrote one person on X.

“This is egregious. Students cannot be fined in colleges for being disrespectful to any religion. Colleges are places where one should be able to freely mock religion. IIT Bombay must take this back,” wrote another.

The Performing Arts Festival is an annual cultural event at IIT Bombay, known for showcasing student talent in various art forms.

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