Several research scholars and hostel inmates of the IIT-Madras came forward and spoke about the harassment and violation of privacy caused to them by the institute’s vigilance officers however; Dean of students dismissed all such charges.
The hostel residents (men and women) alleged that officers barged into their rooms, insulted them and clicked their pictures without their consent, which is clearly a violation of students’ right to privacy and dignity.
The dean of students, MS Sivakumar, said “ they had received complaints from students and the vigilance officers have been apprised of the issues and told not to click photographs.”
He further said that the charges do not reveal the complete picture and these drills are conducted by ex-servicemen who are trained to deal with such issues.
“Vigilance officers are the ones tasked to enforce hostel rules and check for violations. We don’t know if we can call it harassment or enforcement,” he told PTI.
A woman research scholar, on the condition of anonymity, said “vigilance officials barge into rooms, pull things out and call them names for their personal choices. We are all adults…it is really demeaning to experience all this. We might have a lot of stuff that we do not want others to see. It need not even be prohibited things. It is a clear violation of our right to privacy and dignity”.
According to an informal report, which was initiated by the students last year brings into light the issue of rampant “moral policing” by the security personnel, non-academic staff, faculty and fellow students. The report also said that students were targeted for the kind of clothes they wore in public and including public display of affection, among others.
A male-postgraduate students said “the fines imposed for violation of rules were “arbitrary” and ranged from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000. Students have no idea about the slabs and it has not been put up anywhere on the campus.”
A woman Ph.D. scholar alleged that vigilance team takes special note of girl students visiting their male counterpart in their hostels and conduct checks even during the permitted hours.
According to the hostel rules, girl students are permitted to visit boys hostel in their rooms only for the academic purposes and are required to deposit their ID cards with the security staff and sign the visitor’s notebook.
“If a girl is found in a boyʼs room, the officers just check if she is an IIT-M student. Besides, guidelines on fines applicable for violations are available with wardens,” Sivakumar said.
“It is tough to have one rule for undergraduates and another for Ph.D. scholars unless hostels are different. We are yet to be at that level to afford separate hostels for research scholars. When that happens, we will implement rules that are more targeted,” he added.