I had walked at the Nandigram rally. I walked again on this issue — twice, yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday).
The students approached me for their rally yesterday and today I was approached by members of JUTA, of which I am not a member. But since my own principles are involved, I did not hesitate to take a stand and join the rally.
All of us have felt very deeply worried not only about the threat to democratic rights and free speech but also by the threat of purely anarchic disruption of civic and political norms, academic freedom and peace.
There has been a lot of exaggerated talk about the threat of fascism and totalitarianism. I honestly don’t feel that. What I feel strongly about is a breakdown of democratic rights, as though these individual cases of corruption and anarchy suggest that we may come to a point where small groups of toughs and local leaders would manage things in their own private way. That is a threat to ordinary civic life.
When I speak of threat, of anarchy, I fear abandonment of principles of rational discourse and democratic principles like the police doing their duty and us, ordinary citizens, having recourse to a court of law and expecting that the authorities would do their duty.
But these normal expectations are frustrated when an unexceptionable, sober, hard-working man like Ambikesh Mahapatra is suddenly targeted for forwarding a harmless joke or a scientist is picked up for joining a protest.
Up to a point you might say that this could be a single instance of local toughs trying to muscle in on a housing society. But if the government lends its approval to such actions, if ministers defend what has happened to him, then this suggests that the government has abandoned any principles of democratic behaviour and is just supporting incidents of random violence and petty vindictiveness by individual crooks.
We are teachers, and we are proud of our university, recognised as one of the finest in India. We needed to encourage our students and stand together with our colleagues to show that we care about the principles of justice. I am worried about the future of education in Bengal. People will think twice about coming to study or teach in Bengal if this is the way in which the academic community is treated.