The student community at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) have written an open letter to the institute’s chairman opposing the appointment of the new registrar, R.M. Joshi. According to the students, he has posted a lot of “casteist, sexist and Islamophobic comments” on different social media platforms which have been antithetical to the core ideals that the institute has upheld over the years.
“The Tata Institute of Social Sciences has been known for its unapologetic stance on upholding the constitutional principles of plurality, freedom of speech, secularism and social justice for the marginalised sections…Given this commendable history of the institute, the appointment of the new Registrar of TISS is very worrisome,” reads the letter.
According to the students, Joshi, who go by @rmjoshi64 on Twitter and @rm.joshi.56 on Instagram, has posted a lot of Islamophobic comments, and has participated in the “vilification of a particular religious minority community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He has also made statements against protesting students and women who came out of the streets during the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
“Viewing the processes of dissent in such a derogative light, singling out protesting students and calling for their rustication is a terrible precedent to set for an administrator of any educational institution, let alone an institute so deeply involved in our social and political fabric as TISS,” says the letter.
Joshi has also made public comments which, as the students have observed, are not only casteist in nature but also deeply sexist and misogynistic. In one such comment, the students noted, Joshi had claimed that India’s failure to produce vaccine is because the “person who got 90% is selling pakodas and a person who got 40% is experimenting in lab,” making a sly remark about the country’s reservation policy.
In a few other public comments, students say, he has allegedly called women ‘presstitues’, which is a sexist slur primarily used against the women who strongly voice their opinion in public.
Taken altogether, these “biased and highly provocative” statements by Joshi, students say, make him unfit to be appointed as the new registrar.
The full letter has been reproduced below and the screenshots of the registrar’s public comments, compiled by the students, have also been added towards the end.
We write to you to express our deep concern with regard to the appointment of the new Registrar of the Institute.
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences has been known for its unapologetic stance on upholding the constitutional principles of plurality, freedom of speech, secularism and social justice for the marginalized sections. Its teaching and research programmes, evolved over many decades, are symbols of these commitments. Given this commendable history of the institute, the appointment of the new Registrar of TISS is very worrisome. The Registrar is the administrative head of the institute. The Registrar is a person who is responsible for taking decisions on important questions, many of which may be contentious, in an unbiased and democratic manner. The campus is not a military battlefield where only one side survives and the other perishes. It is a space for democratic dialogue, and a meeting point of opposing views. The very future of this space is a fundamental question we all are facing in the contemporary national situation. Hence, it is the duty of all of us to ensure that this space for dialogue is protected and nourished.
The new Registrar has been very active on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where he has a number of public posts and comments. We are appalled at reading many of these views, which are the antithesis of many core ideas and ideals the institute stands for. Reading these points of view have been a highly distressing experience for the student community in the Institute. We are deeply worried about the implications of these dangerous positions he has publicly taken to the way the institute will be administered during his tenure.
We attach with the letter some such instances of disheartening comments by the new registrar. These records have been taken from the public profile of Col. R M Joshi, which goes with ID @rmjoshi64 on Twitter and @rm.joshi.56 on Facebook. In both the SM handles, the personal bio is explicitly provided as Registrar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Hence, we fully believe that it is the social media account of the newly appointed registrar – Col R. M. Joshi. Please see the attached screenshots.
1. Attachments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 show the targeting of a particular religious minority community, invoking of incendiary labels like ‘Jihadi’ and insinuating the link of a particular religion with ‘Terrorism’. These are blatantly Islamophobic and communal in nature. The attachments show that he has actively participated in the vilification of a particular religious minority community during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has to be noted that on 21 August 2020 Bombay High Court had observed while quashing the FIRs against the foreigners who had attended Tablighi Jamat Congregation that firstly there was a big propaganda in print and electronic media against them. Secondly, it appears that the State Government acted under political compulsion and thirdly that the propaganda against the religious activity was unwarranted.
We believe the sharing of such posts by the new Registrar is out of the same bias and propaganda of demonising of people of the Muslim community. This is yet again Islamophobic and communal in nature. This goes against the very principle of equality and fraternity on which our nation is built on.
2. Attachments 8 and 9 depict the vilification of protesting students in various eminent central universities of the country. We believe this is highly concerning, since social activism and social intervention are taught as part of the curriculum in various courses in TISS. Viewing the processes of dissent in such a derogative light, singling out protesting students and calling for their rustication is a terrible precedent to set for an administrator of any educational institution, let alone an institute so deeply involved in our social and political fabric as TISS.
3. Attachments 10 and 11 are comments that show the intolerance of the new Registrar towards the anti-CAA protests. By calling for the arrest of all the women of Shaheen Bagh, who were expressing their dissent to the Act in an extremely peaceful manner, and labelling cultural activists like Varun Grover as ‘someone who was found on the street’, the Registrar has descended in to the worst forms of name-calling and fear-mongering as well as a social complex of superiority. People “on the street” is a section for which TISS, through its project named Koshish, is doing commendable work with regard to destitution and homelessness.
4. Attachment 12 talks about his understanding that the failure of our country to produce vaccine is because the person who got 90% is selling pakodas and a person who got 40% is experimenting in lab. This is inherently castiest in nature and goes against the reservation policy mandated through Indian Constitution. This in turn reflects the caste superiority complex and effectively questions the affirmative actions taken for the upliftment of the marginalised sections. It is important to note the contrast where TISS has courses on Dalit and Tribal Studies Action and Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusion.
5. Attachment 13 & 14 shows the misogynistic language and deep-rooted patriarchy with the usage and labelling of women as ‘PRESSTITUTES’. He is using it with words like paid/unpaid and dishonor. These remarks are highly sexist in nature and is outraging the modesty of women. TISS has multidisciplinary Centers like Advanced Center for Women Studies and Women Centered Practice which has done pioneering work not only in the field of academia but also on ground related to the rights of women. These stark contrast between the work and ethos of the Institute and the new Registrar needs to be duly noted.
6. As already mentioned, the post of Registrar should stand for unbiasedness and a commitment to a democratic and fair way of governing the Institute. However, we believe that this attribute for the new registrar is in a serious question with his public following and retweeting of contentious views of Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak of RSS. Attachment 15, 16 & 17 for reference.
These are only some examples of highly provocative and biased statements made by the Registrar on public platforms. But we hope we have presented to you enough evidence to substantiate our position on why we think the new Registrar is unfit to be appointed to the position. Furthermore, we would like to borrow a few words from the Vision Statement of the institute, and say that the institute requires an administrator who truly believes in “promoting and protecting dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all”.
We hope you will act in good faith of this vision that has been at the core of the celebrated history of this institute. We look forward to hearing from you on this matter of great concern.
Asika VM -President, PSF
Ramadas KS -General Secretary, PSF
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty