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

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.