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Press Release: Joint Statement Condemning Grounds Offered by TATA Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai Blocking Dr Tejal Kanitakar’s Participation in Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture



DATED: Bengaluru, 28th January 2020

The grounds offered by the administration of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai to block the participation of noted academic and activist, Dr. Tejal Kanitakar, from chairing the Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture are shocking and deserve to be unequivocally condemned.

Various academics and social activists from across India have joined together to issue a Joint Statement condemning this decision of TISS, and the same is enclosed.

This could serve in securing the critical importance of not blocking Fundamental Right of Expression on such specious grounds.


Dorabji Tata and JRD Tata would be aghast to learn that in 2020 Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai blocked a former faculty member from chairing the Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture because the administration held “that the chair designated for the program has no academic publications on the said area”, i.e., ‘The Idea of India’.

Dr. Tejal Kanitkar, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, who has taught at TISS for over a decade, and is an energy and environment specialist of repute, may not have a publication entitled ‘The Idea of India’. But then who has?

The memo to keep out Dr. Kanitkar from chairing this lecture, which would have been addressed by noted journalist and writer P Sainath and renowned political scientist Dr. Shamshul Islam, contained various other instructions as well, including: “outside participants will be limited to the list with contact details of the participants, to be provided by the organisers. No one other than the participants listed will be allowed at the event”.

It is appalling that such specious arguments have been advanced by the TISS administration to keep out a former colleague from chairing a Lecture in memory of Bhagat Singh, a man who laid down his life fighting for fundamental freedoms of all. Besides, it is indicative that TISS’ current administration has capitulated to forces which fear critical thinking and the fearless exploration of the Idea of India.

Students who worked to organise this lecture, and would have immensely benefited from it, are the worst losers of this highly condemnable decision. Needless to state, this episode marks a very disturbing development in an institute which has been globally recognised for pushing the limits of freedoms in ways that embody deep humanism and a culture of accommodation of diverse viewpoints.

The undersigned urge the TISS administration to correct this grave wrong and allow the students to organise the lecture, as originally proposed, and without any restrictions. For such is the purpose for which the institute exists. Only such corrective action will help erase the blot smearing the reputation of an institution with hoary and liberal traditions.

Endorsed by:

  1. Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  2. Madhuresh Kumar, National Convener, NAPM
  3. Suvrat Raju, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Bangalore
  4. Dr. Anoob Razak, Alumnus, SHSS, TISS Mumbai (2015-17)
  5. Joe Athialy, CFA, New Delhi
  6. Akshay, IIT Bombay, Mumbai
  7. Christine Polzin, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany
  8. Dr. T.N.Mahadevan, Sr. Scientist and SOCLEEN Environmental Activist
  9. K. Nagarajan, a volunteer with Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  10. Kasim Sait
  11. Vikas Rawal, Professor, JNU, Delhi
  12. Venkatesh Athreya, Retired Professor of Economics, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli
  13. Sharmila Sreekumar, IIT-B
  14. Supratik Chakraborty (endorsing in individual capacity), IIT Bombay, Mumbai
  15. Anisha Debbarman, PhD Student, Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, School of Habitat Studies, TISS Mumbai
  16. Nagesh Hegde, Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) Bengaluru
  17. Brinda Adige, Activist, Bengaluru
  18. Tani Merlin Alex, Researcher, New Delhi
  19. Nivedita Menon, JNU, Delhi.
  20. G Sivaramakrishnan, Retd Professor of Sociology, Bangalore University, Member Gram Seva Sangha
  21. Benny Kuruvilla, Researcher, New Delhi
  22. Dr. Mohan Rao, an independent researcher in Bangalore.
  23. Arlene Manoharan, TISSIAN (1990 batch), Independent Consultant, Bangalore
  24. Sahana Subramanian, Research Associate at Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  25. Ar Vasavi
  26. Dr. Bindhulakshmi P, Associate Professor, Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  27. Gautam Sonti
  28. Joan Shilpa Kiran, Research assistant, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, Bangalore
  29. Tara Murali, Chennai
  30. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
  31. Dr.Suhas Kolhekar, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Pune, Maharashtra
  32. Venu Madhav Govindu
  33. Anil T Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group
  34. D.Raghunandan, Delhi Science Forum, New Delhi
  35. Sujata Patel, National Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla 171005
  36. Prabir Purkayastha, Editor, Newsclick
  37. Githa Hariharan, Writer
  38. Vineeta Bal, Scientist, Pune
  39. S. Krishnaswamy, Retd Senior Professor, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai
  40. Carol Upadhya, Bangalore
  41. Sana Huque, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  42. Shivangi Puri, Batch of 2019, Social work, TISS, Bangalore
  43. Mallesh KR, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
  44. Henri Tiphagne, National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert- India  (HRDA)
  45. Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
  46. Ravindranath, River Basin Friends
  47. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
  48. Lalita Sharma, Research Scholar, Humanities and Social Science, IIT Delhi. 


TISS Administration Memo to Students targeting Tejal Kanitkar:

Dear Organisers of Bhagat Singh memorial Lecture

This is regarding the permission sought for the Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture and subsequent meeting held in the office of the Director today at 11:30am with the Acting Registrar, Dean Academics and the undersigned.

In the event of violation of norms, and unpleasant situations which led to some conflicts and tension among students in two previous events organised by students in the campus, the permission for the Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture was kept on hold. However, after great persuasion from our end, we have decided to accord permission for the memorial lecture on the following conditions;

  1. There can be one speaker and a moderator for the Lecture.
  2. As agreed in the meeting, the organisers are required to provide a written undertaking that you take complete responsibility for the event to maintain full academic fervor and that no untoward incidents will be allowed to happen at the event
  3. As agreed in the meeting, outside participants will be limited to the list with contact details of the participants, to be provided by the organisers. No one other than the participants listed will be allowed at the event.
  4. Both the undertaking and the list of participants need to be provided to the Office of Students Affairs (to Mr. Santosh Palve) by 5:45pm today 23 January 2020. Considering that today is Institute Day, Mr. Santosh may be contacted on phone at 9 – – – – – – -54 (mob number) to submit the same.

Considering the emphasis you made repetitively on the academic dimension of the event, it is found that the chair designated for the program has no academic publications on the said area. Hence the speaker and moderator can be selected from the first two speakers identified.

The permission is accorded strictly on the condition that all the above will be strictly followed.


on behalf of Acting registrar, Dean Academics

Asha Banu Soletti Ph.D
Centre for Health and Mental Health
School of Social Work

Dean, Office of Students’ Affairs
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Deonar, Mumbai-88
Tel: 022-25525465

Project Director
Pragati (Integrated Rural Health and Development Project)
Aghai, Shahpur Taluk

For further details, please call Leo Saldanha (9448377403; [email protected])

More about ESG: https://esgindia.org

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