India Flag (Photo | PTI)
India Flag (Photo | PTI)

India’s global image rests on intellectual freedom, free ideas

These are the areas that need the government’s attention. India does not appear to be doing too well in these areas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech that his government is laying the foundation that will stand India in good stead for the next thousand years. India is indeed creating world-class physical infrastructure that will spur the next round of growth, making the nation the largest economy in the world after the US and China. The economic benefits this growth will accrue will lift tens of millions out of chronic poverty and bring widespread prosperity. The main factors which will contribute to this growth are intellectual and academic freedom and the free flow of ideas. These are the areas that need the government’s attention. India does not appear to be doing too well in these areas.

The highly reputed V-Dem Institute in Sweden, in the 2023 update of its Academic Freedom Index, rated India among the 22 countries and territories, out of the total of 179, where institutions and scholars enjoy significantly less freedom today than they did a decade ago. The backslide in intellectual and academic freedom, as evidenced by raids on research organisations and forced expulsions from centres of higher studies, portends ill for the road ahead. India needs to provide space for all shades of thought to flourish.
The latest case in this regard is the resignation of an assistant professor of economics from Ashoka University in the National Capital Region. His research paper on the 2019 Lok Sabha election, titled Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy, created an uproar that led to his exit.

The University’s academic community is protesting his resignation, seeking for it to be rejected. Earlier, the vice-chancellor of the university, a known government baiter, had to resign from his post. Similar events were witnessed at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Visva Bharati University, South Asian University, and many others. India’s premier research organisations, such as the Centre for Policy Research, have also been at the receiving end of the government’s wrath.

As India moves up the economic ladder and prepares to assume leadership, it is essential to ensure an unfettered exchange of liberal and democratic ideas and thoughts. These elements set us apart and make us more acceptable than the other economic behemoth—China.

The New Indian Express