KOLKATA: In a veiled attack on BJP’s alleged interference in appointments in the premier institutes of the country, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said that freedom of expression and free thinking are under threat at the universities of the country. Better known as a brilliant professor, Dr Singh in his speech at Presidency University here on the occasion of the bicentenary celebrations of the former Hindoo College, said: “Regrettably, independent thinking and free expression in Indian universities are now under threat.
Political interference in university curriculum and academic appointments is highly short sighted.” “Recent attempts to interfere with free expression of the student community in Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University are of particular concern. Attempts to suppress peaceful dissent are not only inimical to learning but they are also undemocratic,” he added.
The year 2016 may be remembered in the country’s history as that of student agitations that rocked several universities such as JNU over ‘anti-nationalism’ and arrests of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and his associates Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, HCU over suicide of research scholar Rohith Vemula and FTII over appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan, whom the students alleged to be a pro-RSS person who aimed at ‘muffling the progressive voices of the students’.
With a veiled reference to the issues of the agitations, the former Prime Minister said: “True nationalism is found where students, citizens, are encouraged to think and speak freely where dissents are encouraged and not suppressed.
It is only by constructive engagements..we can truly build a stronger, more cohesive and sustaining democracy in our country.” “We are witnessing around the world a rise of nationalist tendencies, populism and hatred against backward classes and minorities in disregarding reason and rationality.....but these tendencies could be extremely destructive,” he added. Friday’s speech was one of the few occasions when the former PM had expressed himself on the contemporary issues in the country since Narendra Modi was elected for the top job in 2014.