'Varsities should be bastions of free speech'

'Varsities should be bastions of free speech'

President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said universities and institutions of higher learning must be bastions of free speech, and debates should be encouraged.

At the first convocation of the Nalanda University, he said the varsity reflects an idea, a culture which flourished for 1,200 years before it was destroyed in the 13th century.
He said that over the years, India has conveyed the message of friendship, cooperation, debate and discussions through the institutions of higher learning.

“Dr Amartya Sen in his book The Argumentative Indian has rightly pointed out that debates and discussions are the ethos, a part of the Indian life which cannot be done away with.

“Universities and institutes of higher learning are the best forum for debates, discussions, free exchange of views...such atmosphere should be encouraged,” Mukherjee said.

He said the modern Nalanda should ensure that this great tradition finds new life and vigour within its precincts.

“Universities must be bastions of free speech and expression. It (Nalanda) must be the arena where diverse and conflicting thoughts contend. There should be no room for intolerance, prejudice and hatred within the spaces of this institution. Further, it must act as the flag bearer for co-existence of multiple views, thoughts and philosophies,” he said.
 Mukherjee awarded postgraduate degrees to 12 students of the first batch of the Nalanda University.

The president, during his two-hour visit to the historical place, also laid the foundation stone for the construction of a permanent campus on the sprawling 455-acre campus. The estimated cost of the campus is around Rs 500 crore.

The campus will comprise a lake at the epicentre, academic and administrative blocks, specialised laboratories, museum, playgrounds and a library.

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