Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet has approved a draft Uttar Pradesh Private Universities Ordinance 2019 that says action will be taken against those found indulging in “anti-national activities” on campus. UP deputy CM and education minister Dinesh Sharma explained the move, saying “our only aim is to cut down any unnecessary activity on the campus and strengthen academics”.
ThePrint asks: Yogi’s anti-national clause for varsities: Curbing freedom or ‘cleansing’ student politics?
What happened in JNU and Jadavpur made it necessary to have some kind of deterrent
Sidharth Nath Singh
Health Minister and spokesperson, Uttar Pradesh Government
The term ‘anti-national’ denotes something that is not in the interest of the nation and that is what we have objected to. Neither free speech or thought nor student politics is being curbed. What happened in JNU and Jadavpur University has made it necessary to have some kind of deterrent.
There is a fear here that laws might be misused. But this fear should not stop the government from introducing things with good intentions, which are aimed at improving the law and order situation of the country or stopping ‘anti-national’ activities.
One should ensure that this country or any university does not become a playground for ‘anti-national’ activities and that the national interest is always preserved. This is the reason why students go to universities. They do not go there to hold dharnas (protests) and pradarshans (demonstrations) or to shout “Bharat tere tukde honge” or “Azaadi” slogans.
The reason for introducing this Ordinance should be understood. There was no umbrella act in UP for the 27 private universities, which were coming up. This umbrella Ordinance will provide a level playing field to all universities. Its clauses are aligned with the UGC. This is will encourage academic collaborations with international universities.
No end to anti-national acts by BJP-RSS members but these certainly won’t make it to Yogi govt’s list
Activist and former JNU student
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“Anti-national” activities shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere — but the Yogi Adityanath government should explicitly define what he means by the term “anti-national”.
Was it an anti-national activity when a supporter of Adityanath said that dead bodies of Muslim women should be exhumed and raped – with Adityanath sharing the stage? Is the act of garlanding those convicted of lynching anti-national, which former Union minister Jayant Sinha had done and then justified? Was it anti-national when the Dadri lynching accused got a spot in the first row at one of Adityanath’s election rallies? Is Anant Kumar Hegde’s remark that the BJP will change the Constitution or asking people not to identify themselves as ‘secular’ not anti-national?
The Hindu Mahasabha recently recreated Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on his death anniversary, and some days later Pragya Thakur called Nathuram Godse a ‘great nationalist’ – are these acts anti-national in Adityanath’s book? Hindutva is about ‘one nation, one religion, one language, one culture’, which is against our national ethos of ‘unity in diversity’. Would imposing Hindutva ideology qualify as anti-national activity?
Sadly, none of these are anti-national acts for Yogi Adityanath, his BJP or their ideological mentor RSS. They encourage and legitimise such acts.
The RSS and its members who constitute the BJP played no role in India’s struggle for freedom, but are at the forefront of using the cloak of nationalism to dismantle universities by defaming them. This government defamed JNU three years ago, and then followed it up with all kinds of efforts to kill the university’s inclusive nature.
For a state like Uttar Pradesh to have policies that talk about identifying ‘anti-national’ acts is even more dangerous because there is a certain lawlessness there that allows the police, acting at the behest of the Adityanath government, to attack dissenters. The illegal arrest of journalist Prashant Kanojia or the manner in which Dr Kafeel Khan was hounded and imprisoned for months are examples of this.
Politicians & university administrators should be invited to take a course on Indian nationalism
Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi
Social historian and professor, Krea University
That higher education institutions of India are in need of serious reform is not a matter of dispute. But it is also true that many of the suggested reforms simply don’t understand the nature of higher education or the severe crises it is afflicted by. The UP government’s new Private University Ordinance perfectly illustrates this syndrome.
If university students, or for that matter any other group of citizens, were to indulge in anti-national activities, and were to particularly use violence as an instrument to achieve their political objectives, then there are enough legal provisions at the disposal of government to prevent such activities. Why separate provisions like these?
Is the goal to prevent slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’? If that is the case then an invitation should be extended to our Indian politicians and university administrators to take a course on Indian nationalism in the new ‘Swayam’ platform. Hearing such critiques, our politicians might feel terribly offended but at least they would recognise that in a university classroom, ideas are freely and openly discussed. Such discussions are actually necessary to renew our society and indeed, our nation.
Had he attended one such course, the current JNU vice-chancellor would surely not have suggested placing a tank on campus to instil patriotism among students. Perhaps he would have recommended the closure of JNU, seeing that there is no reforming the place. UP DCM Dinesh Sharma, too, would have reached the same conclusion.
Universities must breed ideas but we can’t allow their conversion into nurseries of political activities
Professor of Political Science, Delhi University
The Uttar Pradesh Private Universities Ordinance 2019, which seeks to improve and impart quality education to the students committed to follow the academic calendar, has evoked unfounded controversy because it seeks to insulate university campuses against anti-national activities.
The critics have two arguments against it. First, that it is designed to produce a conformist education system in which there is no space for critical enquiry and plurality of ideas; and second, that it strangulates free thinking and articulation of mind on the campuses since any opposition to government policies would attract punitive actions.
Both these premises are based on hypothetical presumptions. Neither does the draft suggest these, nor has the government spokesperson mentioned anything as such in categorical terms. Yet, the controversy is unlikely to die down because academicians and intellectuals habitual of criticising and being intolerant towards the BJP government would continue to ignite flames to score political points.
Let us not forget that campuses are prone to channelising students’ activities to subversive ideologies of violent and revolutionary uprooting of the Indian state. They promote separatist activities aimed at ‘breaking India’ in the name of free thought. We have several examples to prove this point. Universities must be the breeding grounds of ideas but we can’t afford to convert them into nursery of political programmes and activities that humiliate the national emblem, burn or tear the national flag, and openly challenge the territorial unity and integrity of the country.
If there’s anything that is anti-national, then it is this ordinance brought by Adityanath govt in UP
Author and student activist
The first thing that comes to mind and worries one when you hear of such absurd policies is this: who decides what is anti-national or national? Past experiences tell us that anyone who is against the BJP is an anti-national. So, taking that as a benchmark of this government’s mindset, it is extremely worrying to have a policy being formulated that goes against everything this nation stands for. It is an attack on the democracy.
Today, it is these small changes that the masses will ignore because it doesn’t directly affect them. Soon, this government will turn its focus towards introducing amendments in Constitution with significant impacts.
It is important that we protest this move because curbing free speech and debate in educational spaces are first steps to turn a democracy into a fascist state. UP’s deputy chief minister claims that the purpose of this ordinance is to ensure that students are more involved in academics as against what this government sees as “anti-national activities”.
But the truth is that citizens learn more about the nation by being part of the processes that shape it – and what shapes a nation are ideas and dissenting views. These ministers forget that ours is a nation built through protests and dissent that brought us our freedom. It is shameful that these politicians would do their bit to separate this country’s youth, who constitute about 60 per cent of the population, with the nation’s legacy. If there is anything that is anti-national, then it is this ordinance.
By Fatima Khan and Aditi Vatsa.
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