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Modi visit: U.S. academics sound caution

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley next month to woo its movers and shakers to provide heft to his Digitial India initiative, has met with its first roadblock with several leading academics in American universities advising IT firms to exercise caution when engaging with the Indian Government.

While Mr. Modi will be seeking to build on the Indian connect, the list of Silicon Valley giants is emblazoned by the names of Sundar Pichai chief executive officer of Google and Satya Nadella who heads Microsoft, the academics have taken the opportunity to remind them of their responsibilities to the forms of e-governance proposed by Mr Modi’s plans of digitisation. The academics, write that it does not just disregard safeguards about privacy of information but also carries with it the threat of surveillance that Indian citizens will be subjected to.

The academics’criticism of Mr Modi’s government was countered by the chief of the foreign affairs cell of the BJP, Mr Vijay Chauthaiwaale, who said, “Mr Modi’s popularity and his place in the hearts of millions of people all over the world is not determined by classroom simulators of socialism who are enjoying all the benefits of capitalism. It is determined by the ballot box and development agenda beneficial to millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.”

On the other hand, in a signed statement, the academics have drawn the attention of the firms to the Modi Government’s “disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.” The signatories include Columbia University's Akeel Bilgrami, Stanford University’s Thomas Blom Hansen and the University of Chicago’s Wendy Doniger.

In particular, the statement questions the Indian’s Government’s track record in the last one year on several issues ranging from censorship, bans and restricting NGOs from engaging with the public, to ongoing violations of religious freedom as well as attempts to curtail the independence of the Judiciary.

The academics also questioned the restrictions to academic freedom like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the IITs, IIMs, Nalanda University, as well have questioned questionable appointments made to premier institutes like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the National Book Trust.

> Read the full statement

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 7:54:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/statement-from-scholars-of-indian-studies-on-modis-trip-to-silicon-valley/article7594319.ece

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