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Is academic freedom greater than the constitution?

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Sudhakar Upadhyay
Sudhakar Upadhyay
Sudhakar Upadhyay is an alumnus of Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is currently working as Research fellow with MyNEP. He has deep interest in India's education policy, rural development and Indic cultural renaissance.

A thesis written by a student of Tata institute of social sciences (TISS), Hyderabad has created uproar in the country for its overtly separatist stand in the garb of gender justice. In recent years, TISS has been in news multiple times because of similar anti national incidents. This is not only disheartening as a proud alumnus of the prestigious institute but also as someone who loves his nation and would do anything and everything in power to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our motherland. The title of the dissertation reads ‘India occupied Kashmir’ and the inner content as seen by many through social media posts goes on to dub India as an imperialist force occupying the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir forcefully.

The attackers of 1947 are eulogised as freedom fighters who purportedly took help from Pakistan to overthrow the despotic rule of that time. Dogras are cunningly dubbed as foreigners to the land. The hypocrisy or lets say Pakistani view being peddled becomes crystal clear when the same thesis addresses Pakistan occupied Kashmir as ‘Pakistan administered Kashmir’ and ‘Azad Kashmir’. After the massive outrage, how much of the original dissertation would be allowed to remain in public domain is questionable but the title itself in the first place is problematic and must not have passed the scrutiny of the concerned professors. Some more dissertations of the past written by TISS students endorsing separatist view on Kashmir are being shared by ex students now. 

The official argument being shared by the administration that ‘TISS does not endorse such views’ seems weak as the acceptance of the controversial thesis and granting of the mark sheet to the concerned student is in itself ‘endorsement of the views’. The argument looks more hollow by the simple fact that the guide is completely involved in the dissertation right from the title finalisation till the submission stage. Draft of dissertation is submitted to the guide beforehand and is edited with the help of guide for enrichment. TISS also holds multiple presentations on various stages of the dissertation work with other students of the class and many faculties of the department in attendance. That nobody ever had an objection to this point of view poses many difficult questions in front of us all. Thus, TISS governing board should go for a genuine in depth enquiry of this incident and come up with a detailed public report to restore its credibility and accountability. To understand the reason why I say this, let us delve into two more incidents from the past involving TISS Mumbai.

The country was in shock and dismay after the cowardly Pulwama attack in 2019. The whole nation was crying in unison for our martyred bravehearts. A group of students organised a condolence gathering and candle march to show solidarity with our jawans. Students turned up in large numbers and it was a great tribute to our protectors. Unfortunately though when the message to invite students for that gathering was shared in a particular group, one student immediately remarked with ‘lol’. The person went on to say that our army has killed and raped thousands of innocent civilians and every single personnel is responsible for the same. The person further explained that army is the implementer of state sponsored violence projects and labelled the students who attended such gatherings for our jawans as ‘BHAKTS’.

That appropriate action was taken against the concerned person gives us hopes of proper redressal in the ‘dissertation gate’ as well but that this anti national thinking persists continuously in the campus is a sad reality. The other incident is from the February 2020 pride gathering at Azad maidan, Mumbai. Quite shockingly, a TISS student completely diverted the issue at hand and sloganeered, “sharjeel tere sapno ko ham manzil tak pahuchayenge” literally meaning sharjeel your dreams shall be fulfilled by us. The name referred to sharjeel imam who openly gave a call to cut off Assam from the rest of India. A student studying in a state funded institute demanding the state to be cut off into two pieces. Capturing such rights based movements to further anti national agenda has become a preferred practice in contemporary times. 

The above trinity of unacceptable events is neither exclusive nor exhaustive. Yet, they serve our purpose in raising few pertinent questions running in the mind of every common Indian. How do some students of a few institutes come to develop the mentality to question and contest the very integrity of our nation? Why are we producing such degree holders who work overtime to stop the capital punishment of proven terrorists? Who is teaching these youngsters to have deep sympathy for maoists and simultaneously deep hatred for the army? Educational institutes were envisaged as the harbingers of societal welfare and national development. This statement makes more sense for a country like ours which needs to harness the continuing demographic dividend and prosper on all fronts. On the contrary our premium institutes are becoming safe haven for destructive activism. It is akin to disindianising Indians who are against their own nation. It is like preparing for an internal civil war amongst ourselves in future. 

Being a TISS alumni, I have not written this article against TISS nor does it claim that everything associated with it is bad. TISS as an institution has produced many dedicated social workers and disaster managers, development and policy practitioners, management and health sector professionals etc who have proved to be an asset to the society. There are many caring professors who are genuinely moulding students into worthy future citizens. But, I want to explicitly present the other side as well. There are also students who are evidently anti national. There are associations which work to divide the campus and society at large on various fault lines. There are teachers who are not teaching but indoctrinating students with fixed set of dogmas and isms. There are faculties who instead of widening the horizon of creativity are locking young minds into a shell.

The bubble is bursting because nothing is hidden in the age of social media. It is high time that the institute takes remedial steps to get rid of all such elements who are bringing eternal infamy to the celebrated institution. The voice of a country loving common Indian needs to be heard and the failure to do so would certainly prove disastrous in the long run. 

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Sudhakar Upadhyay
Sudhakar Upadhyay
Sudhakar Upadhyay is an alumnus of Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is currently working as Research fellow with MyNEP. He has deep interest in India's education policy, rural development and Indic cultural renaissance.
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