Skip to main content

Constitutional right to dissent: Civil society steps up pressure, as "absconding" JNU student leader reappears

Khalid Umar
By Our Representative
Civil society has sharply stepped up its campaign on the “constitutional right to dissent” amidst Umar Khalid, 28-year-old PhD student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) reappearing on the campus along with his colleagues Anirban Bhattacharya, Rama Naga, Ashutosh Kumar and Anant Prakash.
More than 200 senior civil society activists have joined India's senior academics in writing a letter to the President of India expressing their “shock and concern” at the alarming increase in reports from several academic institutions in India of high-handed behaviour on the part of the authorities against dissent (click HERE for the letter and list of signatories).
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of large number of mass organizations, has declared that it would join left-wing political parties to hold a massive rally on February 24 at Parliament Street on the "constitutional right to protest, in which “thousands of farmers, workers, fisher folks, and adivasis with participate.
Khalid appearing on the campus, declared was “not a terrorist”, even as Delhi Police waited outside the campus to nab him for charges of sedition. He told a gathering on the campus, efforts were being made to call him a Jaish-e-Mohamed activist, with false stories floating around that he had been to Pakistan twice, that he was a mastermind, and that he had made calls to Gulf and to Kashmir.
Referring to the harassment meted out to his sisters and father, he said, “For the last six years in the JNU campus I never thought myself as a Muslim. The first time I felt like a Muslim was in the last 10 days.”
The letter to the President said the harassment of students on “frivolous and baseless charges” was “shocking”, adding, “We fail to understand why and how organising and debating to protest/ commemorate certain events in the troubled history of Kashmir any matter should become an act of sedition.”
Condemning the police action, the letter underlined, “We would also like to draw your attention to the rapidly growing tendency of cynically defining ‘anti-nationalism’ for sectarian ulterior motives in order to further terrorise people through self-appointed vigilante groups.”
“Any serious academic institution will fail in its endeavour to nurture informed citizenship if it is not a place for dialogue, debate and dissent”, the letter said.
The letter quotes the Report of the Education Commission (Kothari Commission) of mid-1960s, which said, universities are the “dwelling places of ideas and idealism” and theirs “is the pursuit of truth and excellence in all its diversity – a pursuit which needs, above all, courage and fearlessness.”
The commission had further noted, “Great universities and timid people go ill together. . . universities are pre- eminently the forum for critical assessment of society – sympathetic, objective, unafraid…”
The letter warned, “An atmosphere of fear and distrust will only teach the young to be timid and subservient, not the best qualities to cultivate democracy and create proactively thinking and questioning citizens of the future.”
Those in the civil society who are likely to join the rally in Delhi on February 24 include, apart from NAPM, are Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, which has been fighting against the efforts by the government to come up with pro-industry amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, the All India Union of Forest Working People, the All India Agricultural Workers Union, and CPI-M’s farmers’ wing All-India Kisan Sabha.

Comments

Anonymous said…
All this reminds me of Nazi Germany.
Anonymous said…
All this reminds me of Nazi Germany.

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily

By Dr KS Parthasarathy* 
EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India (GoI) in a letter addressed to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, stated that, there has been "worldwide anxiety about the consequences of catastrophic nuclear accidents, either due to manual lapses or natural calamities" (Counterview, December 2, 2018). "In the recent years, globally, the pace of growth of nuclear power has escalated in leaps and bounds, causing a great deal of public concern and apprehension."