The three curators and organisers of the Vidarbha Literary Festival have stepped down, allegedly after right-wing activists began threatening them and approached key family members. The festival, exclusively catering to non-fiction writings and started just months before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, is scheduled to have its next edition in February 2024. But curators Sukhada Chaudhary and Pawan Sarda and organiser Ruta Dharamadhikari collectively decided to step down last week.
Sources privy to the developments at the festival said that activists belonging to right-wing organisations raised objection over four of the many speakers who were invited to the festival. The objection was against inviting journalists and authors like Aakar Patel, Josy Joseph, Shruti Ganpataye and Shivam Shankar Singh to the festival. For the February 2024 edition, around 40 speakers were invited.
When a Muslim like Umar Khalid crosses boundaries, there is a further panic attack. A young articulate Muslim man who does not wear a skull cap, who is an atheist, who did his Ph.D. from JNU in history on Adivasis in Singbhum is seen as an anomaly in the segregated world the RSS wants to create. The attempt is then to reduce him to just one aspect of his identity – so that whatever else he does or says or writes in the end he must be seen merely as a Muslim, and by extension, violent, anti-national, and a threat to the “Indian mainstream”. So dangerous that he has been in jail for three years without bail. It is not surprising that so many of the young people who were arrested for the anti-CAA protests were Muslim students at India’s leading universities.
Umar’s thesis, titled ‘Contesting Claims and Contingencies of Rule: Singhbhum 1800 – 2000’, is a well-researched and deeply insightful exploration of the relationship between Adivasis and the state, in what is seen as one of the most ‘isolated’, ‘backward’ tracts of India, even as it is the site of extensive mining.
Umar argues that contrary to the received wisdom which has pitted a homogenous Adivasi society against the state, the state intervened through the fractures within Adivasi society.
प्रेस की आज़ादी पर वेंकैया नायडू चौकाने वाला बयान !_venkaiah naidu on press freedom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPuyh6u9nDM
Journalists should feel free to criticise politicians; else democracy will be in danger: Venkaiah https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/journalists-should-feel-free-to-criticise-politicians-else-democracy-will-be-in-danger-venkaiah/article66744002.ece Mr. Naidu observed that the tribe of politicians agreeing with different viewpoints is decreasing, but at the same time, he also deplored the growing tendency of journalists to colour news with their views April 16, 2023
In recent years, we have seen many such examples of the government intimidating the scholars working in the knowledge sector into silence. While academic freedom is being challenged, defamation lawsuits are becoming tools of harassment.
In 2022, India’s academic freedom index was in the bottom 30% among 179 countries, according to analysis by the V-Dem Institute. It flagged 22 countries, including India, China, the US and Mexico, where institutes recorded a slide in academic freedom over the past decade.
As part of the assessment, five indicators were used by the institutes. These include the freedom to research and teach, freedom to disseminate information, and the freedom of academic and cultural expression. The indicators also included encouraging a tradition of provocative thinking, controversial views, and non-conformity – which are conditions for sustaining a diverse and inclusive society.
Less discussed is how the decline in academic freedom impacts democracy itself. Democracy is not merely about protecting voting rights and conducting elections or maintaining the rule of law. While these are an important part of functioning democratic systems, the bedrock of democracy is a vibrant civic society.
In recent years, we have seen many such examples of the government intimidating the scholars working in the knowledge sector into silence. Information flow and civic discourses that encourage creativity are vital for a participatory democracy to thrive. While academic freedom is being challenged, defamation lawsuits are becoming tools of of harassment.
A division bench of the Bombay high court had, on April 10, followed some strange reasoning while denying relief to
a college teacher in Kolhapur. The teacher had sought quashing of an FIR against him for posting two messages on his WhatsApp status, one of which was critical of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir . https://thewire.in/law/why-bombay-hcs-denial-of-free-speech-on-the-basis-of-profession-is-problematic
According to the bench, this is all the more so when the emotions and sentiments behind a particular t
hing or aspect being criticised run high with different shades and hues among different groups of people. In such a case, the bench held that the criticism, disagreement, difference of opinion, dissent, whatever one may choose to call it, must be expressed upon an in-depth analysis and accompanied by reasons, so that the appeal that such critique makes is not to the emotions of groups of people but to reason.
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