Back in 2015, eminent historian Ramachandra Guha described
the Modi regime as “the most anti-intellectual government.” It has turned out
to be prophetic. Today India ranks high among countries that have imprisoned truth
even in academic centres.
Recently The Wire
published a report titled Six
Tables that Tell the Story of Academic Unfreedom in India. The report
is based on extensive research carried out by a group of people. Let me
summarise the report below.
1. Censorship of books and
interference with university syllabi
From A K Ramanujan’s Essay: 300 Ramayanas and
James Laine’s book on Shivaji to Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An alternative
History and Kanchan Ilaiah’s Why I am not a Hindu, dozens of
publications have been either banned or removed from academic curriculums. The
reasons vary from hurting the sentiments of a particular religious community in
India to sheer arbitrariness of certain right-wing groups.
2. Denial of
permission, disruption of seminars/meetings/events on campus
ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, seems to decide now
what kind of seminars and other academic projects can be organised in the
country. ABVP has also targeted the critics of BJP in many ways. “Any speaker
from JNU is assumed to be a fair target,” says The Wire report. From
Ananad Patwardhan’s documentary movie to Prof M N Panini’s lecture on Gandhi
and religious tolerance, a lot of noble ventures have been attacked by this
organisation that behaves more like a mafia gang than a students’ group.
3. Arrest of
faculty/criminal charges against faculty and arrest of students
Quite many teachers and students are under arrest in
Modi’s India merely because they do not agree with certain policies of the
present government. Some of the faculty members jailed under the notorious UAPA
have/had serious medical conditions. The list consists of 37 such arrests and
that is not exhaustive. Most of the arrests in this list are related to
Kashmir, Hindu gods, and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
4. Physical attacks on
faculty and students
This table ranges from killing (M M Kalburgi, H S
Saberwal) to a variety of physical attacks on students and teachers, mostly
carried out by ABVP members.
resignation of faculty/students
Prof Guha was himself targeted in this category: the
scuttling of his position at Ahmedabad University by BJP. We find an
illustrious set of thinkers here who were forced to leave their jobs because
they chose to stand by truth. From Prof Sandeep Pandey (Magsaysay awardee) to
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, this is quite a galaxy whose sheen was stolen by ‘patriots’
6. Denial of research
visas/restrictions on academic exchanges
Here we meet foreigners who were not even allowed to
enter India because their views were not in tune with those of the country’s
government. Some were allowed to enter but not permitted to speak. This is list
is the least comprehensive, says the report, because the victims do not like to
speak about their experiences due to many reasons like visa problems. BJP’s
India is not quite happy with scholars from abroad. The guest is no more divine
here in the birthplace of the Taittiriya Upanishad.
Knowledge is the ultimate liberator
of any people. Knowledge and truth. The ancient Indian wisdom has always emphasised
on both. But the present India, which claims to be upholding the values of that
ancient wisdom, seems to be moving in a different direction altogether. The
worst tragedy is that too many people without spines have already been put in
top places of the prominent academic institutions in the country.