Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Madras Univ Wrong In Denying Rahul Gandhi Permission....

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.


  1. @Ravinr:

    My opinions on the issue of Freedom of Speech mentioned above:

    You are taking the constitution (or the freedom that you speak of) as a given. If you think democratically, where is the consensus on these issues? If you think these are natural and inalienable rights then this is your assumption that you must put forth as assumption

    India, and its citizens, including the recent past, not excluding Mohandas, Tilak, Jawahar and such ilk, have never done the cerebral home-work that is needed to establish these principles in a civilizational or sociological manner. Political zealotry is only thinly distinguishable from bigotry.

    A facilitation of mere free speech will not take a nation far. You need a more fundamental basis for that. A somewhat axiomatic development of this is attempted here.

    Please take a look.

  2. @ Media Syndicate

    Thanks for the comments. I did read the contents at the link you provided and found them interesting but slightly different from my topic. I don’t think we differ much except for the last para of your comment. And I have to stand by my belief that ‘free speech’ is the first step to TRUE freedom and democracy. I have also indicated that free speech is nothing but an outcome of ‘freedom of thought’. No matter what else can be aborted by law, ‘freedom of thought’ can never be stopped by any law. Therefore, I contend that free speech is a natural and inalienable right of human beings which should not be abridged or curtailed. Contrary to your point that I have taken this as a “given” in the constitution, I maintain that our constitution limits it and therefore legally suppresses the truth being spoken and being open to question. The closest constitutional provision that comes close to this freedom is the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
    If there were violent dictators, tyrants and religious invaders, it is free thought and speech that will finally break the shackles and bring out the truth. For instance, Hinduism (and I call it that instead of Sanatan Dharma for the sake of common usage) is the only religion that does not have a blasphemy law or rule or code. You may have heard of the ‘Calcutta Quran Petition’ of 1985 which challenged the Quran itself. (If by chance you haven’t I recommend you take a look, it can be found anywhere by an easy search on the net.)
    And no, freedom of speech may not take a nation far but it is absolutely the first step. As much as truth is the first step to realisation.
    Thanks again for your insightful comments and I look forward to more from you.

  3. Yes, literally there appears to be political intervention to scuttle accommodating Raul Vinci meeting in the university campus. When MK could prevail upon EC to declare the defeated candidate PC as elected, after all university is nothing for him.
    You have questioned conferring doctorate to Munni then what about the same by Annamalai University to MK the esoteric fact wherein a student for having protested was murdered and his parents were to declare they had no such son named so? Is it not the farthest of cruelty

  4. @ Vaidyanathan Iyer

    You're right. But at least MK is a poet of some sorts and has published some literature. So grudges apart I wouldn't object so much, Hahahahha! As for MK's various offences, that should make a whole post by itself.

  5. Newspaper reports say RG was denied permission because he wanted to address youth Congress workers at the campus, which is a political event. So, I feel the university was fully justified in denying him the facility. As far as SG being conferred a doctorate is concerned, I agree with you that it is questionable why universities indulge in this kind of decoration.

  6. @Ravinar,

    Thanks for taking a look at MS. And, yes we agree about the agreements as well. For convenience, we write below point-wise to facilitate clearer discussion.

    1. We respect your beliefs in free-speech, and democracy, and that free-speech is the first step towards 'true' democracy.

    We were rather nit-picking here. We wanted it to be stated as a belief, rather than something that is self-evident. And since you have stated it, the point is resolved.

    2. We possibly mis-stated our point. We did not mean that you took it as a given from the present constitution. We just wanted to say that you took it as a given. Though we do have a minor disagreement on this point, but we will take it up in another nit-picking thread.

    Here, we rather agree with you that our present constitution stymies freedom of speech. We would go a step further and posit that our constitution, at least the way it is being practiced, stifles freedom-of-speech of the Hindus, while giving it in abundance to the rest.

    3. We are not much aware about US Constitution, so We take your word for it. We have heard about the CQ-petition, and congratulate you on your being well-aware of many of the related issues.

    4. We usually have no problems with the word "Hindu" at all. What peeves us is when people stretch its meaning to suit their convenience. For example RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat equated Hindus and Indians in a diffused manner here. Mind you that this kind of convoluted definition will include people like Afzal Guru in the fold "hindu", implying that in India we have only Hindu-Terrorism, wherein some of the terrorists are Muslims as well!

    That is the only reason terms like Hindu-WOL or Sanatana Dharma were used there.

    5. Blasphemy laws are problematic, but they are not the only problems. As you said, freedom-of-thought is even more fundamental and freedom-of-speech only its corollary. We are aware of the "Piss Christ" movement (considered to epitomize freedom-of-speech in US), however, recently a woman who proposed "celebrating anniversary of Danish Cartoons as freedom-of-speech day" was advised by the FBI to change her identity for security reasons.

    6. In our opinion, freedom seems to be of primary importance, freedom-of-something can only be a derivative, and this can be subject to civilizational canvass.

    7. However, once any particular form of freedom-of-speech is implemented, we are all for a Consistent application of these freedom-of-speech laws. If the application promotes asymmetry, it is a certain danger.

    8. Since humans have varied and differing conceptions of truth and realization, there needs to be some agreement on possibly a different plane, and we have attempted just that in the link that I referred earlier.

    9. Regarding both India, and Hindus, since the very idea of nation has been distorted and manipulated so many times, a clearer understanding on foundational issues, in our opinion, are the first step.

    10. Regarding nit-picking on freedom-of-speech, consider the following hypothetical situation: Suppose that a country unanimously decides to practice, and therefore enact into law, a weaker form of freedom-of-speech. In such a situation, would you support freedom-of-speech or the right of the people to live as they choose? The very least that can be said is that making a choice between the two in such a situation is not that easy or obvious, at least to us.

    And, it is very heartening that there are individuals like you who are putting their efforts towards due intellectual diligence, on many of these fundamental issues. Keep it up.

  7. It is all about scoring political points and sending a msg.

  8. He is a politician and will make only political speeches that too before members of Congress party.

    Madras university did the right thing by denying that joker; in all this, like you mentioned, hand of DMK can not be ruled out.

  9. When OU has become a platform for it and egregiously harnessed for any goondaism and vandalism, even giving asylum for maoists the universities have lost their principles which is a territory for values which is a map


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