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Academic Freedom in India

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.

5. Termination/suspension/forced 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’ and ‘nationalists’.   

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.


  1. Hari OM
    Your final para sums it up succinctly! YAM xx

    1. Madhya Pradesh has already implemented Hindi medium in medical colleges. Wonder why non-Hindi-speaking students of the country should be denied opportunity to study in that state. Moreover if these docs later wish to migrate abroad what will they do? There are other serious problems too like lack good literature, medical journals, etc in Hindi.


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