Faculty, students say space for free thinking shrinking

September 29, 2016 12:00 am | Updated November 01, 2016 09:37 pm IST - MAHENDRAGARH:

The uproar over the enactment of a play based on Mahasweta Devi’s short story ‘Draupadi’ at Central University of Haryana has left the faculty and students scared to discuss sensitive issues in classrooms or on campus.

“I teach human rights and will be wary of discussing several sensitive issues inside the classroom after the recent controversy. What if I talk about human rights violations in Kashmir in the class some day and a student films me and makes it public. I may be branded anti-national and sent to jail on charges of sedition. It seems the space for free thinking has shrunk of late,” said Rakesh Meena, assistant professor in the Law Department.

Tight control

“The university authorities disconnected the power when a film on Babri Masjid demolition was being screened in the auditorium, following complaints from a few activist students. Facebook has been banned inside campus, even for teachers, for a year now. This was done after some students created a page expressing their views on certain issues plaguing the university,” said Mr. Meena.

Snehsata, assistant professor in the English Department and one of the co-ordinators for the play, said that speaking about the marginalised has been “conveniently branded as anti-national”.

“We are free to talk about Nirbhaya, a middle-class woman that was raped, but cannot speak about a Dalit or a Manipuri woman subjected to the same cruelty. More than the Army, the play is about rape, the brutal dehumanising weapon in the hands of the patriarchy and the State. I am disappointed how the real issue got lost amid the din. When we can question the legislature, the judiciary, the teaching fraternity, what is so sacrosanct about the Army. Is it above the Constitution?” said Snehsata.

The events over the past few days has left Snehsata, the first scholar from this university, drained. But it has failed to dampen her spirits.

“The first few days were really tough with little support from the fraternity, except a few colleagues. I was busy explaining to the police, the media and my own people as if I had committed a crime. But I have emerged more stronger from all this,” she said.

Assistant professor Manoj Kumar, another co-ordinator, said that he was still too scared to step out of the campus. “Just because I happened to spend a few years teaching at Chattissgarh, they labelled me a Naxal,” said Mr. Kumar.

What if I talk about human rights violations in Kashmir in the class some day and a student films me and makes it public. I may be branded an anti-national and sent to jail on charges of sedition

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