Protect Our Freedom of Expression in the Academic Institutions of India
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No democracy can claim to be one, unless freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed by statute and where the state machinery works to ensure compliance not only in the behavior of government, but of its citizens. The curbing of expression with threat and through terror, increasingly more menacing, should be condemned and stopped, if our country is to become a mature democracy. Indeed, the expression of varied and differing opinions strengthen the political discourse and empowers people to make informed choices.
Once again the forces using terror and violence have prevailed over culture and tradition of reason, debate and discussion and forced the cancellation of seminar on ‘Cultures of Protest,’ scheduled to be held at Ramjas College in Delhi on February 21, 2017. It is a dark day in Indian intellectual history! We oppose ABVP’s systematic and deliberate attempts to humiliate, terrorize and bully the students and the faculty members. We also condemn the brutal, unconstitutional, and illegal actions taken by the Delhi Police against the students and faculty members. Delhi Police’s refusal to lodge FIRs, illegal detention and parading of students in buses, and scapegoating of democratic student and faculty body threatens and undermines values of the Constitution, and has created an environment of fear and dismay.
Why is Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad averse to engaging in intellectual dialogue to express their different viewpoint? Do Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid as citizens of India not have a right to express their opinion? ABVP and the political forces guiding them should reflect on what they are doing. By curbing freedom of expression in universities they are likely to produce individuals, who would either be incapable of rational thinking or afraid of expressing their opinion, both of which will take the society intellectually backward.
We want to highlight that the incident is a continuation of systematic attack on students in various parts of the country (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Hyderabad Central University; and Delhi University) whereby democratic and academic discussions are being stifled, and there’s an increasing move towards controlling and policing campuses by the ABVP. We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned with the shrinkage of academic and democratic space within universities in India, and demand that the witch-hunt against students and university campuses be brought to an end, and action taken against those who continue to violate fundamental rights for their political agendas.
We appeal that this madness in the name of cultural nationalism ought to stop. We express solidarity with the battered professors and students who have dared to stand up to this hooliganism. We will fight to protect the right to freedom of speech and expression, spirit of enquiry and culture of dissent, all of which are absolutely essential for the existence of democracy as well as for an enlightened society.
We urge the President of India and CJI to direct the Union Govt of India to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Indian Constitution and to stand up against those who want to limit our freedom of expression. Kindly ensure that the peace prevails on academic campuses in India and the right to freedom of expression and speech is held intact. In strong arm tactic like intimidation and arm twisting must stop and elements responsible for creating such an environment must be dealt strongly. Anybody who has to express his ideas must do so respecting the constitutional values of our country. Any difference in opinion must be argued and debated rather than been forced upon the people.
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