Students gagged? Yes and no

Students gagged? Yes and no

Not all institutions are silencing voices of protest, but some are placing informal restrictions

Posts doing the rounds on social media allege colleges and universities in Bengaluru are quelling their students’ voices and barring any discussion of the Citizen (Amendment) Bill.

A tweet from Jain University, purportedly an official message asking students to remain silent and neutral on CAA if approached by the media, was sent to the Kochi campus of the institute by its Pro Vice Chancellor Dr J Letha.

That was one gag order originating from a college official, but others, attributed to private institutions such as Christ (Deemed to be University) have no basis, faculty told Metrolife.

Students from Jain University’s Centre for Management Studies, Lal Bagh Main Roadsay they have not come across any gag order, and have not been stopped from expressing their opinions. Many have taken part in protests in an individual capacity.

A professor, from the Jayanagar Campus, however, says the director of the group has asked faculty to stay away from CAA discussions.

A tweet alleged Christ (Deemed to be University) was hushing students’ voices. Padmakumar M M, the head of the Department of Media Studies says the post, by a student, was based on assumption. “Our students are free to do what they want to as individuals, they have all the rights to do so,” he says. The student has since taken back her statement and tweeted a clarification.

Many students from Christ are taking part in protests, but some are afraid the institution might take punitive action against them.

An assistant professor from Christ who took part in protests says she has no idea how the management would react to it.

“I don’t bring my students into it and it happens outside my work hours,” she says. “But we do have discussions about the CAA in classrooms.”

Mount Carmel College (MCC) was to be the starting point of Tuesday’s protest march until the police intervened.

Police visited the campus and instructed students, in the presence of the Vice Principal, not to engage in any protests without police permission.

Faculty have been informally barred from attending protests, a source says, but some did take part in Tuesday’s march.

“The professors asked us not to talk about their presence as they could possibly get into trouble with the college,” a student told Metrolife.

A professor from St Joseph’s College says the college has not asked students to keep away from protests.

“In fact, students and teachers have been advocating on social media and have gone for protests,” she says.

Student Teresa Braggs, who has actively been organising protests says that fellow students still fear their colleges might suspend them for being politically active.

Should students be protesting?

Sreedhara VS, former member of the faculty at the National Law School of India University, says many student protests have changed the course of history.

He feels students must be encouraged to be politically aware and active. “Although protests are important, students need not always be taking to the streets. Universities should facilitate debates and discussions on topics such as NRC,” he says.

Harsha Narayan, the state secretary of ABVP Karnataka, says while protesting is a Constitutional right, the anti-CAA protests are violent, and hence reprehensible.

When asked about the videos showing ABVP members indulging in violence, he says, “This is false information spread by people who stand to gain from portraying us in this manner.”

BJP supporter Damodar Varma echoes Narayan’s sentiments on the protests, and claims students were arrested in Bengaluru for their violent intent.

“They got detained because they were planning to do something wrong,” he says.

View from Delhi

Umar Khalid, student leader and Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, says the country is threatened, and it is “not just the students but everyone who should raise their voice.”

Students are at the forefront of major social changes the world over, and even at home during the freedom struggle, he says.

He likens the “students should stick to studying” argument of the government and its supporters to the ‘infantilising of student activists’ by the British.

“When politics is deciding the future and the fight is for existence, everyone must engage with it,” he adds.

 

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