In the context of what is happening in many universities across the country, let the true upholders of academic freedom come forward to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The first thing is that violence has no place in academia. Issues have to be debated, sometimes with lot of passion. Ideological positions are quite natural, but the right to have a strong ideological stand cannot be exclusive.
The word ‘democratic’ is being used in our country (and elsewhere too) with abundance. Our self-styled Leftist professors are seen to be admirers of such “people’s democratic” regimes like North Korea. This is simply ‘misteaching’ because instead of teaching using established facts, they seek to substitute ideology for facts.
Tons of events are held in our colleges to unleash this pollution.
The problem in our academia is when someone questions this ‘misteaching’, the Left lets lose goonda raj on the honest enquirer and silences him. When increasingly large numbers of students (and teachers) begin to question substitution of facts with ideological views, left-wing goondaism claims it is being subjected to violence.
Take Delhi University itself for instance. Was it a mere coincidence that, say in the Economics Department, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, most of the leading teaching staff were of a Left-socialist ideology that eulogised planned economy, public sector ownership of most resources and industries and all other Marxist viewpoints?
There was hardly anyone who questioned basic Marxian thinking because all other viewpoints were suppressed. This despite the fact that Communist China under Deng Xiaoping had begun to eagerly turn to capitalism, even allowing Western capitalist enterprises on its soil, to lift Mao’s country from the mess left by the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Much the same story is seen in history teaching across the country. The lineup of Leftist professors like Irfan Habib at AMU and Romila Thapar in Delhi ensured that any learned man with a different view of history was debarred. Doctoral theses were scanned to ensure that no other approach to Indian history prevailed in the Indian academia.
For 35 years, West Bengal was under a Marxist regime. The academic freedom people enjoyed there is well known. Those Congress leaders who are so eager to support the Left in JNU, in Hyderabad, Jadavpur and elsewhere should recall how Naxalite student leaders had established a goonda rule in Kolkata. It was Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray who sought to break this circle of violence with a counter violence under the leadership of the Congress organisation Chhatra Parishad. This is not to suggest that violence against the Left-Marxist combine is justified.
Unlike others, Marxists and Communists are committed to violence as their theory urges a proletarian dictatorship. Marx, Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara and all other stars of the Left led through violence and the ultras who have set up their own regimes in parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand as well as in Andhra Pradesh are seeking to overthrow elected governments across the country through armed violence.
Even as the much-criticised ABVP is not willing to take the Leftist dictatorship over the Indian academia lying down and is trying to break the Left stranglehold in Delhi, a continuing battle is being fought elsewhere too. As in Bengal, in Kerala, the Leftist students union, the SFI, recently displayed its brutal intolerance against the Kerala Students Union in Law College, Trichur. SFI activists came in a large group, got into the college classrooms even as teaching was in progress. Reports say that even teachers who sought to intervene to prevent this attack were injured. They further say the police, though immediately informed, deliberately took their own time to intervene. Kerala has a Marxist-led State government now.
There could also be intense debate whether Delhi’s policies in militancy and terror-ridden Kashmir or Manipur are right or not. But that is not the issue here. There is the foreign angle here as militancy and terror are being openly sponsored and funded with weapons supplied by a third party—Pakistan.
Can any country allow domestic groups to endorse and even hero-worship such foreign-funded and armed militants and expect to survive as a nation? The battle is surely not for ‘freedom of expression’. India has a long tradition of free debate. Barring the dark period of Indira Gandhi’s emergency, Indians have enjoyed uninterrupted freedom of expression since Independence.
The bogey of free speech in danger is in fact a ruse to camouflage the real agenda to break India. The communists had actively conspired with the departing British and Muslim League to vivisect the country and create a theocratic Pakistan. The Left has no faith in India or her democratic Constitution which mirrors the pluralistic Hindu ethos of this ancient land.
During the Second World War, the communists collaborated with the British against freedom fighters and spied on them. After they left, the communists waged an armed war against the newly-born Indian Republic.
When China attacked India in 1962, the communists sided with the enemy, their ideological kin, and tried to sabotage the internal security of the country. In contrast, RSS volunteers rendered yeoman service at that time of national crisis. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had invited the RSS to join the 1963 Republic Day Parade in Delhi to recognise its contribution.
India has since come a long way. And with time, the Left has also changed its slogans and strategies. But its divisive agenda remains unchanged.
(Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)