Clampdown Of Dissent In Universities

Posted by Garvita Sethi
March 1, 2017

On February 22, 2017 Ramjas College of University of Delhi became a battleground of ideologies. It witnessed violence instead of constructive arguments and coercion instead of education. Umar Khalid, a PhD scholar from JNU was invited to be part of a panel where he was to present his work on Bastar, the subject of his PhD work. This lead to an unprovoked attack on students by the self-appointed commissars of national interests (ABVP).

This episode can be seen as a part of a spreading pattern. Ever since the BJP lead NDA government has come to power at the center, its student wing has become a force which uses muscle power to curb dissent. In Hyderabad Central University, the screening of ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hain’ was stalled by the ABVP. Dalit scholar, Rohit Vemula, who committed suicide after facing discrimination on the basis of his caste had run-ins with this right leaning student organization. In Jai Narayan Vyas University in Jodhpur, an assistant professor was suspended by the administration for inviting Nivedita Menon to deliver a lecture. In Mahendragarh, the ABVP agitated against the staging of Mahasweta Devi’s play ‘Draupadi’.

It is unfortunate that even after frequent recourse to violence and disruption under the garb of nationalistic rhetoric, the leaders of the parent organization are not condemning it. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju has stated that freedom of speech does not allow “campus to become hub of anti-national activity”. Here, he is missing on the fact that critical thinking gets shrunken when the weight of nationalism is brought to bear on the young. Universities are the places where students think, argue and learn. But if our political ideologies blanket our grey cells, we merely march on the tunes of left, right and left. Contrarian views should be dealt with constructive debates inclusive of logic and facts. Also, efforts are required to reform the student politics in universities. Violence and sloganeering only create battle lines and spill venom.