Yogesh Kant |
NEW DELHI: Freedom of speech and expression is at the heart of Indian democracy. At Jawaharlal Nehru University, all students’ political groups – many affiliated to mainstream political parties –swear by this right, as they gather and discuss various issues at food joints across the campus at late hours.
However, since February 9, 2016, the University administration is quickly shutting down such spots, where debates and discussion thrive. “Since the establishment of the campus, we have had a culture of debate and discussion. But, it seems the administration is trying to curb such debates,” said Anirban Bhattacharya, a student activist of Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organisation (BASO).
Many famous eating joints, known mainly as space for debates, are being forced to shut down after 10 pm. “Only Ganga Dhaba is allowed to function till 2 am, which is strategically a Draconian step to suppress the debate culture of JNU,” said Apekhsha, a research student and BASO activist. Read This – 54-yr-old British man arrested for sodomising visually-impaired kids “I think there is an increasing narrowness in our public culture these days.
Young people are often told that they must focus on their studies and ‘not poke their noses into others’ business’. Studies seem to have become the be-all and end-all of everything,” said another student at Ganga Dhaba. He added: “I think it is absurd and certainly not the way to function in an educational space – whether it is a school or a university.”
A professor at the University, wishing to remain anonymous, says, “It worries us as educators, as young people will now be afraid to speak their minds. Curbing freedom of speech and the culture of debate is simply not on – not in the university, not anywhere at all. And to accuse those who are raising their voices in support of JNU of creating hatred and playing politics is to miss the point entirely.”
During the poll season, especially, the debates even reach into every hostel. “Things have drastically changed. Only three of the 15 hostels are allowed to conduct such debates in their premises,” Bhattacharya added.