Truth behind the news ‘IITian refuses to take degree’
Some time back a news that IIT Kharagpur student had refused to take degree made rounds in the news circles and became headlines on major news channels, papers and magazines. However the news was grossly manipulated by the agencies, specially TOI, mis-quoting and mis-reporting the real incident. We condemn such unscrupulous journalism.
Here is the complete story told by Chandra Kumar from IIT Kharagpur.
Before I start, I’ll introduce:
Ritesh Singh: He is a third year B.Tech student in Computer Science Engineering Department of IIT Kharagpur. He stays in RP Hall. (I am not sure whether he belongs to CSE department.)
Myself: I am Chandra Kumar Patel. I did my M.Tech in Micro Electronics & VLSI Design from Electronics & Electrical Communication Engineering Department of IIT Kharagpur. I passed out in May 2011.
I’ll start from the beginning.
April 2011 (In the beginning of the month)
I saw a pamphlet saying that a few people (Ritesh and his group) are fasting in support of Shri Anna Hazare. I contacted Ritesh and joined him in the protest against corruption. Soon, Ritesh and I became good friends.
June, July & August 2011
I moved to Bangalore (I was posted there) in the first week of June 2011. In August 2011, I joined with the people in my company and carried out poster and human chain protests against corruption. I also campaigned through other means like wearing an IAC T-shirt and a cap (like the one worn by Sri Anna Hazare), putting a pamphlet on my back etc. I used to (and still today) wear these things every time and everywhere. The objective of doing all this was to encourage people to join hands against corruption. This way, I was able convey my message to people without saying anything to them.
Through facebook updates from Ritesh, I came to know that they were fasting again outside IIT Kharagpur campus. I decided, when I will go to KGP for the convocation, I’d go to the fasting venue there.
August 21st 2011
Registration for convocation was scheduled in the morning and rehearsal in the afternoon. There was no dress code for the rehearsals so I wore the same IAC T-shirt and the same Gandhi cap during the convocation rehearsal.
We were supposed to stand in a queue and go to the dais when our name was called. When I was standing in the queue, the person who was calling students names asked me whether I’d wear the same cap in the convocation also? I replied with yes and asked whether there was any problem? Being busy calling the names, the person could not properly answer me.
After returning from the convocation rehearsal, I went to meet Ritesh at the fasting venue. I saw two press reporters (from Indian Express, as far as I remember) were interviewing Ritesh, Mr. Shashi Shekhar, and a couple of other people. Then, those press reporters interviewed me as well. Later, two reporters from TOI came and they also interviewed us.
In my interview with TOI, I said, “When I was standing in the queue, the person who was calling students’ names asked me, “Would you wear the same cap in convocation also?” I replied, “Yes, I would. Is there any problem with this?” He couldn’t answer my question properly because I was pushed ahead in the queue and he was busy in calling the names of the students. Then, I thought (after coming back to my seat), if they don’t allow me to take the degree wearing Gandhi cap, I would rather prefer to take the degree off stage (meaning, away from the stage/dais) than taking the cap off.
I also mentioned what happened in April in IIT Kharagpur while we were protesting. I did not say anything more than this. But, TOI quoted many things like
“I’d boycott the convocation.”, “I wish he had watched me in the cap. It would have nicely conveyed our protest. But that was not to be. I will wait for another opportunity to meet him, hopefully before the Lokpal Bill is passed.” ,which I had never said.
August 22st 2011 (The day of convocation)
In the afternoon (around 12.30 pm), Ritesh called me and said, “A lot of news channels have come and everybody is looking for you. Can you come to the fasting venue now?” Since I was busy talking with some of the professors of my department, I told Ritesh,”I am busy now and can come to the fasting venue in the evening only after convocation. If media people can wait till they can cover me. “I reached the convocation venue (TOAT), at about 2 pm, wearing the dress code specified and the Gandhi cap in addition to the dress code. There was a tight security cover, however, the security people did not have any problem with the Gandhi cap and did not stop me. I went inside the convocation venue and sat at the specified place. After few minutes, two professors came to me and tried to persuade me to take my cap off.
One of them said, “We know the cause you are supporting and we also support it personally. But, you know who our chief guest is.”
Later on, they were joined by two more professors. They said,
“Wearing a cap is against the rules. A cap was not specified in the dress code and you should not wear it”.
“Sir, I have worn everything specified in the dress code and there are many things which were not specified in the dress code like belt, wrist watch etc….. but, everybody is wearing them. What is the problem with the cap?” I asked.
But they said again that it was against the rules. They tried to persuade me emotionally, diplomatically, and in many other ways. When they felt that they cannot persuade me, they told me specifically, “You should not wear this cap in the first session.” Then, after some more discussion, they said, “You can wear this cap in second session but not in the first session”.
We all knew that our honourable Prime Minister will leave after the first session, and I felt that they did not want to create any unpleasant situation there. I replied, ”Then, I would rather prefer to sit outside the convocation venue for the first session than taking the cap off.”
They said, “It is your choice”.
As I was left with no other option, I sat outside the convocation venue for the first session. While sitting outside I thought, “If it is against the rules to wear a cap inside the convocation venue, they would not allow me to sit inside in the second session also. Why are they allowing me? I should not break any rule of the convocation day and should rather not go inside”. But later on I thought that by taking the degree wearing this cap I can encourage a lot of people to join hands against corruption which was a greater cause. And, I decided to go inside the venue in the second session.
I went inside in the second session. Our director was giving degrees to students. When my turn was about to come, I stood in the queue going to dais. After few minutes one of the volunteers came to me and said, “You should not dishonour anybody sitting on the dais. Please, take this cap off.”
I replied, “I am not dishonouring anybody. And, why should this cap offend anybody there on the dais.”
Then that volunteer went away and one of the four professors, who had approached me earlier, came to me and said, “This is against the rules and we’ll consider this seriously”.
I replied, “Sir, I never want to break any rule. If it is against the rules to go to the dais wearing this cap, I would rather prefer to take my degree off the dais”. Then, I came out of the queue and settled at my place. After convocation, I approached to the person who was in charge of PG degrees and asked for my degree. He told me that my degree has been sent to the PG office. Then, I went to the PG office and collected my degree there.
Since, we were not supposed to carry our mobiles with us during the convocation; I had left it in my room. When I came back there were 17 missed calls 15 from unknown numbers. I didn’t call back to any unknown number. Later many people from various news papers and magazines called me in the evening eagerly asking what happened in the convocation (But, nobody from TOI). I told the same story of the convocation day what I have written here to whoever called me. But nobody published the truth. Then, on August 23rd, 2011, I left for Bangalore. I was a bit disappointed that authorities did not allow me to sit inside the convocation venue wearing that cap during the first session. Since, they allowed to sit in the second session, they should have allowed in the first session also. I don’t know what were they afraid of.
However, the news published in the media was very unfortunate. Every IITian respects his/her alma mater by heart and no one can even dare to think of disrespecting the honour code of such a great institution, let alone the auspicious convocation ceremony.
I would suggest everyone to have a video recording while giving interviews to the press so that the statements are not spiced up or manipulated by them for publicity.
Lastly I hope that my voice and the truth about the incident reaches everyone out there. I sincerely request every IITian and others alike to share and forward my story and to be cautious while speaking to media in future.
–As told to iitstories by Chandra Kumar