Renowned thinker and academician Noam Chomsky, who had questioned JNU authorities over the handling of the recent event, believes that India’s image among those who care for freedom and human rights is declining.
“The intolerance debate is not just limited to India. There is plenty of intolerance everywhere. As for India’s image, among people who care about human rights, freedom, and justice, it is declining,” Chomsky told PTI in an email interview from the United States.
87-year-old Chomsky, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said “academic freedoms are a key indicator of the overall status of political freedom and democracy. The acceleration of privatisation across the public higher education system is undermining these freedoms on a global scale”.
Chomsky was asked about the debate over “intolerance” and whether alleged government interference in educational institutions was limited to India.
He maintained that India is “not the only country where educational institutions are being subjected to such attacks, though the sequence of events at JNU signal towards a culture of authoritarian menace”.
“Three cases have been most prominent in that regard since the beginning of 2016: the crackdown by Turkish authorities on more than 1200 signatories of the petition by ‘Academics for Peace’ criticizing the anti-Kurdish war drive launched by the Turkish government;
“The crackdown by Indian authorities on students involved in a non-violent campus protest at JNU and Hyderabad University, ... and the savage torture and assassination in Cairo of Italian research student Giulio Regeni,” Chomsky, known as the ‘Father of Modern Linguistics’, added.
Chomsky had last week written to the JNU Vice Chancellor questioning his decision to “allow police on campus when it was not legally required” after six of its students were booked under sedition charges after a programme where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.
Chomsky, who has over 40 honorary degrees from varsities across the globe including Harvard and Columbia, was also signatory to a recent statement along with noble laureate Oran Pahmuk and 84 academicians worldwide, who had condemned “the culture of authoritarian menace that the present government in India has generated”.