AIIMS sets conditions for event on Ambedkar, caste; doctors say arbitrary, illegal

May, 16, 2019:The Indian Express

A section of AIIMS faculty members have objected to conditions imposed by the administration on a discussion centred on caste-based discrimination at institutes of higher education.

A group of doctors from the AIIMS Front for Social Consciousness wanted to hold a discussion on the topic, ‘Ambedkar’s views on Social Relations: Caste discrimination in Institutions of Higher Learning’, on May 13, and wrote to the administration to book a lecture hall. While granting permission, however, the administration added certain conditions, which members feel are an “infringement of their fundamental rights”.

“No society/forum/association has been allowed to host or participate in the event. No political discussions should be held. No media coverage should be done and no press release should be issued without specific approval of the Director AIIMS, as this is being held within the AIIMS premises,” stated the registrar, in response to the request for permission.

The panelists for the discussion included professors from DU’s Hindu College, IIT-Delhi and AIIMS faculty members.
Calling the move “arbitrary and illegal”, doctors have postponed the event and sought that the conditions be revoked.
A meeting was also called with the Director to discuss the matter. Faculty members said the director conveyed that the event can take place once the Lok Sabha polls end on May 19.

“The director stated that he supports all kinds of academic discourses, not only related to medicine but other subjects — for example, sociology, political science, etc — that has the effect of making students… more responsible towards society. The order in question, the director clarified, is issued in view of the election,” said a faculty member in a communication to the administration.

However, certain sections of the faculty objected to the administration giving permission to hold another event, “A talk on Astrology and Medical Sciences”, which had been covered by the media. “Conditions should be same for everyone; the administration cannot pick and choose. Putting up such conditions appears to be a gag on freedom of press and academic freedom…,” said a senior faculty member.

Dr Sanjeev Lalwani, registrar, AIIMS told The Indian Express: “We have followed the guidelines and given permission to hold the discussion. Approval has been given under the terms and conditions approved by the competent authority. The rules are common and apply to every non-academic activity at the institute… they are not specifically changed for any individual.”

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