Last month, few students of Ashoka University, a newly opened liberal arts college in Sonepat, Haryana, signed a petition requesting the Indian government to stop the atrocities being committed by the Army against Kashmiris. The petition was created in light of the execution of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, which was followed by protests erupting in Kashmir. It was signed by 80 odd students from a total strength of 600 and went on to condemn the use of pellets, bullets and lathis by the Army against the people which resulted in a large number of civilian deaths and grave injuries. It also appealed to the Government to demilitarise Kashmir and conduct a plebiscite, as was promised to them by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
However, many media blogs, including at least one from Pakistan, circulated it as a petition by Ashoka University and not just those 80 students who had signed it, resulting in misinterpretation of the same. When this wrong information was floated, many came forward to brand the university as ‘anti-national’ and commented on social media saying that these students should be sent away to Pakistan. Some even went to the extent of saying that Ashoka’s funding should be banned.
Though there had been lot of misinterpretation and spreading of fabricated information, the communications team of Ashoka University immediately issued a statement, which said that, “Only a handful of individuals, including a few students of Ashoka University, had signed the letter, and it, in no way, represents Ashoka’s point of view. Ashoka University does not endorse the views held by these individuals, and at no point, supported them. In fact, Ashoka University condemns such behaviour, and had asked the individuals not to use the good name of the University to represent personal views and ideas.”
Further, they also stated that while the university definitely allows for freedom of expression and independent thinking, no member of the Ashoka community has the ‘right to give his or her political opinion the stamp of institutional support.’