According to reports the Madras University has denied Rahul Gandhi permission to use their auditorium to address Congress workers and students. Obviously this smacks of political malice. No matter how much I disagree with Rahul Gandhi and find his statements and utterances childish and moronic I have to condemn the action of Madras University.
Freedom of assembly, speech and expression is the first fundamental right in a democracy. It implies freedom of thought. Indian constitution does not guarantee us that right in its proper form but selective practices of denying freedom of speech and assembly further erode it.
If the constitution or rules of the Madras University do not permit political speeches then they should have allowed permission to Rahul Gandhi with the condition that he cannot indulge in speeches that violate their rules. That would have been proper. To prejudge his speech deserves condemnation.
This is the same Madras University that indulges in political activity of a different kind. Two years ago in September 2008 the organisation conferred an honorary doctorate on Rahul Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi. What for? Sonia Gandhi is not even a proper graduate, has not written any kind of literature, hasn’t done any noteworthy research or published any papers. If this University can confer such a degree on her, the motives are nothing but political. And I dare say, the university is quite likely to have allowed its auditorium for similar political functions in the past although I am not searching for its records.
If there has to be a stringent policy then Universities must stop conferring awards on political figures, ban political activity on their premises and ban student unions that are affiliated to political parties or are supported by political outfits. All of these happen day in and out at any university in India.
Instead of promoting greater freedom of speech most Indian institutions are politically motivated to curb it. While abusing freedom of speech is a common feature among public figures the constitution needs to be amended to allow complete freedom of speech to citizens. Articles which penalise causing hurt to communities, groups or religious sentiments are absolute balderdash. It’s nothing short of an insult to freedom itself. Frequent banning of books is another blot on this freedom. Banning books on Shivaji, or Islam or plays on Gandhi etc. should not be tolerated in a mature democracy. Even Hussain’s paintings should not be protested as much as Mohammad cartoons should not be banned. You must have the freedom to even question God and religion. When you don’t, you are denying this freedom to atheists and agnostics. They are as much citizens of this democracy as anyone else.
The Madras University is perhaps being forced to act by political compulsions of the DMK government and owes an apology to Rahul Gandhi.