Kirit Somaiya: Same students at most of the protests

Updated: Feb 08, 2020, 07:25 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Defending his tirade against TISS, BJP leader Kirit says he respects institute, but has an issue with a handful of students appearing in every protest

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya. File pic
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya. File pic

After branding students from TISS 'Urban Naxals', BJP leader Kirit Somaiya denied attacking any institution and said his fight was against "a set of fanatic, radical people seen at all protests". TISS students, on the other hand, have questioned his wife Medha's association with the institute on several projects as a Tata Chair Professor.

In half-a-dozen recent instances, the same set of fanatic radical people are seen. We are only concerned about those. A common factor among them is TISS," Somaiya told mid-day. He added that all such students belong to the Students Federation of India (SFI) and that any organisation supporting Imam is a matter of concern. "Any students' organisation has a limited role and certainly has no business commenting on democracy or issue press statements supporting Imam. As an individual they may, but not as students' councils."

A Dec 9, 2019, protest by TISS students against CAA
A Dec 9, 2019, protest by TISS students against CAA

Students said that his comments are an attempt to gain lost political mileage. They also pointed to discrepancies in Medha's appointment, calling it a well-planned infiltration of BJP functionaries after they came to power in the state.

Somaiya, who is the vice president of Maharashtra BJP, had termed the TISS Students' Union as 'Urban Naxalite Radical Leftist Union' and said that he will seek police action against them based on 'evidence' he has.

TISS institute in Deona
TISS institute in Deona

TISS students are facing Mumbai police's heat amid the anti-CAA protests. Urvashi Chudawala, the queer student-activist booked for sedition for her slogans supporting JNU student Sharjeel Imam, is also a TISS student.

Responses to Somaiya's attack have, however, been anonymous as students fear consequences.

A TISS students' protest on Dec 16, 2019
A TISS students' protest on Dec 16, 2019

"It is obvious that Medha is deeply involved with the BJP and its ideological institutions, and harbours political aspirations. Questions over her credibility remain. Especially when very limited work of academic importance was produced. She has also been representing TISS at various platforms. She is said to be associated with TISS's Delhi centre, although very little information is available on the nature and operations of this centre," a statement from the students said.

The students also pointed out that Medha is attached to the School of Vocational Education established under the Skill India initiative. Kirit gets included in programmes organised by her as a special guest or speaker. "It won't be incorrect to assume that their association isn't solely for academic reasons," the statement added.

Medha refused to comment on the matter.

'Withdraw sedition case against pupils'

Queer citizens of the city have opposed the sedition case against 51 people over slogans raised during Mumbai Pride on February 1 and demanded that the FIR against Urvashi Chudawala and others be dropped. With 1,600 signatories, the statement has the support of queer and feminist groups like Nazariya Queer Feminist Resource Group, LABIA — A Queer Feminist LBT Group, The Pink List, Queerala, Women and Transgender Orgs JAC, Hyderabad, Telangana Hijra Intersex Trans Samiti, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Saheli, WSS, Feminism in India, and Fem Positive.

"As allies and members of a community that fought against a colonial law, Section 377, we cannot support the persecution of LGBTQIA+ individuals under sedition — another colonial law. Pride has always been about protest and celebration.

"We will continue to stand up against the persecution of oppressed groups everywhere — because, as queer people, we know what oppression looks and feels like," the statement read.

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