Let me begin from day 1. On February 23, I shared an article written by Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University published in the Indian Express that day. It was titled “Umar, my son”. I found the article very touching and also very interesting. The message of the piece was that we, as teachers of parents, shouldn’t disown our children, our students even if they rebel and question the system. We should listen to them even if we totally disagree with them. Throughout my career as a teacher I have invited questions of any sort. Inquisitiveness is a basic requirement for any type of academics to be conducted.
The Procter and Vice-Chancellor assured the protesting students that they would pursue the matter with me. Later on, some students even submitted an unsigned memorandum to the Vice-Chancellor. The next day I received a letter from the university asking me to explain what happened. It also asked me to respond within a day. So I did so, clearly laying out exactly what my position was. Right now I don’t know the purpose of this action by the university but the protesting students want me to be dismissed for sharing the Indian Express article.
I have gone but I only go at a time when the university is relatively empty, say, in the mornings. So of course, there is a sense of fear for my physical safety. I know these people can do anything to me. When in court, under police protection, in the capital of the country, there is jungle raj then of course Lucknow University is not secure.
My classes are not being held at all now so like I said, this is very much like a mobocracy. A few students have said that they will not come for classes until I am dismissed.
The future of the youth is dark now. Right now nothing has been proven against Umar, Anirban and Kanhaiya and yet no one knows how long they’ll be in prison. And given this injustice, I will surely take a stand on this matter – I will not budge. I know I am right. Right now they’ve come for JNU students and me. Eventually they’ll come after everyone. Now is the time to buckle down in favour of free expression. They may hurt me, they may hit me, that’s fine – but I won’t back down. Because as a social scientist, as a teacher, as an academic and as a citizen of this country, it is my duty to fight for what’s right.
Yes. People are scared now. Particularly amongst middle classes, who anyway conform with the establishment in the normal course of things. But I feel the situation amongst the youth has hope. Even if they are scared, they do want to react. I’ll bring up a comparison with the Emergency again. While it was on, the people were silent. Dalits, minorities, the youth, kept their head down. Yet, remember, Indira Gandhi lost even in her citadel in 1977. So even now, I have hope that things will change.
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