It is true that governments dislike criticism but the BJP-led NDA government seems to be particularly sensitive to any derision of their agenda or world view. Here’s one more example of this: The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), which was rocked by 139-day campus protests last year over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as its chairperson, has made it compulsory for all new students to submit a “conduct affidavit”. The affidavit bars students — adults who have voting rights — from violating the “decorum and decency on the campus” and “insulting” faculty members. It goes on to add that the institute has the full right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against students who violate any of its rules and regulations. The bottom line: Come and study, but don’t get into a debate on issues beyond textbooks or raise voices against social injustices/government agenda. No radical thoughts, please.
This is the first time that such a notification has been introduced in the institute, but it is not difficult to understand why it has been done. Other than last year’s protests in FTII, the country witnessed two other major protests this year by the student community in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU). In both cases, students, especially the Left-leaning ones, clashed with the ones on the Right, which is trying to get a foothold in India’s campuses. The FTII affidavit is also clearly part of this broader agenda of changing the narrative in these universities. This agenda is also being pushed through bureaucratic (as seen in FTII) and policy (the new education policy) measures. In an interview to HT, this is what TSR Subramanian, who led a committee established by the HRD ministry to come up with ideas for a new education policy, argued in support of curbs on students’ political activism on campus: “The opinion basically states that freedom of expression is a fundamental right… But there should be restriction to ensure that this right of a few should not impinge on the majority of the students. It is possible to have such restrictions”.
It is not only that the Centre cannot digest criticism of its actions, it is also using all kinds of means to ensure that student agitationists are kept in check. JNU recently refused to register the 21 students who were involved in the events of February 9 for the new semester, which includes students’ body president Kanhaiya Kumar. If the Centre thinks that student activism is bad then it should also rein in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) too. It can’t be that ABVP’s politics is benign and what other parties/students indulge in is toxic. This amounts to double standards and does nothing to enhance education in the country.