Activists vow to fight on for complete freedom of thought, speech

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) A number of academicians, writers, students and activists on Friday vowed at the Pratirodh forum here to keep resistance alive till there was complete freedom to think and speak freely.

Among those who expressed their views were writers Krishna Sobti and Kancha Iliah, historian Harbans Mukhia, lawyer Vrinda Grover, social activist Gauhar Raza, journalists Siddharth Varadrajan and Shoma Chaudhury, and student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Omar Khalid (all Jawaharlal Nehru University), Richa Singh from Allahabad University, Dontha Prashanth from Hyderabad University and Rakesh Shukla from Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.

The speakers expressed concern over rising intolerance in the society, the suppression of dissent by the government and the increasing attempts at the saffronisation of education and educational institutions.

“Dalits and other underprivileged students cannot go to Cambridge and Oxford. But they can go to Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University, and we are producing intellectuals here,” said Dalit writer Ilaiah.

Veteran journalist Varadrajan expressed concern over editors becoming opportunist and consequently certain important issues not finding a place a place in the media.

“Many significant issues which need to be discussed are either relegated to inside pages or just do not appear in the media. And those journalists who try to raise these issues are pressurised in many ways,” he said.

JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and vice president Rashid dwelt on changing definitions of nationalism and constitution’s architect B.R. Ambedkar’s relevance in today’s politics and social structures.

“If we want to challenge the politics of suppression and Hindu nationalism, we will have to move on the path of (Mahatma) Gandhi and Ambedkar and we would have to be on the same page,” Kanhaiya said.

Rashid rued that Ambedkar was reduced to a mere Dalit icon though he was a “greater scholar than most savarnas of his time”.

She also questioned the changing definition of nationalism and its relevance.

“There has to be justice before jai,” Rashid said.

Other student leaders including Richa Singh and Rakesh Shukla too called for keeping the resistance alive till “the mind was without fear”.

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