Scientists, academicians write to IISc. Director expressing dismay over UAPA discussion

The signatories include several faculty and students at IISc., alumni, and a number of distinguished scientists from institutions across India

Updated - July 03, 2023 03:24 pm IST

Published - July 03, 2023 03:23 pm IST - Bengaluru

The signatories stated that the event was initially planned as a talk at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) in the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and had been approved by the CCE chair.

The signatories stated that the event was initially planned as a talk at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) in the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and had been approved by the CCE chair.

More than 500 scientists and academics have written to the Director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) in Bengaluru expressing dismay at the action taken by the administration to allegedly stop a discussion on Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), prisons and the criminal justice system.

The signatories include several faculty and students at IISc., alumni, and a number of distinguished scientists from institutions across India.

In a letter addressed to IISc Director Prof. Govindan Rangarajan on June 30, the signatories expressed dismay over the IISc. administration stopping a discussion scheduled on June 28.

The discussion was to be led by Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, activists who participated in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The letter states that, in 2020, the duo were arrested under the UAPA and accused of being part of a ‘larger conspiracy’ in the Delhi riots case. However, while releasing them on bail, the Delhi High Court noted that ‘in its anxiety to suppress dissent … the State has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity. If such blurring gains traction, democracy would be in peril.”

Their bail was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

The signatories stated that the event was initially planned as a talk at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), and had been approved by the CCE chair.

“On June 27, the registrar of IISc. abruptly cancelled permission for the talk. This led the student-organisers of the event to replace the talk with an informal interaction outside the Sarvam complex. At this point, the administration dispatched members of the security team to disperse this informal gathering. It was only after the intervention of members of the IISc. faculty that the security team backtracked,” states the letter.

The signatories said that they believe that it is important for members of IISc. to hear about Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita’s experience, and to reflect on the laws that were used to incarcerate them.

“Regardless of one’s perspective, such discussions are crucial in a functioning democracy and IISc., as an academic institution, is ideally positioned to host them. Conversely, if the institute is unwilling to permit peaceful discussions on constitutional questions, it is hard to see how it can foster a spirit of critical inquiry that is necessary for scientific work,” the letter stated.

It added that the actions of the administration reflect poorly on the institute’s commitment to upholding academic freedom and democratic values.

“They have damaged IISc.’s reputation, both within the country and internationally. We hope that you will take urgent corrective measures and ensure that members of IISc. remain free to express and discuss a range of ideas, both about science, and about the society that we live in,” the letter states.

The Hindu has reached out to the office of IISc. Director Prof. Rangarajan for the institute's version. This report will be updated once the response is received.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.