India, under Narendra Modi, is increasingly showing fascistic tendencies. One of the Hindutvadi fascists, Shiv Sena MLA Gulabrao Patil said, “Is desh mein rehna hai, kutton, toh Vande Mataram bolna hoga” (If you wants to stay in this country, dogs, you will have to say Vande Mataram.”) Even the Congress is showing such fascistic signs demanding that every Indian must utter Vande Mataram.
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Lately, students at JNU - Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya - were arrested on charges of sedition on February 24, over an event held in campus on February 9 against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, and they are currently lodged in Tihar Jail. JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, also arrested on sedition charge over the same event, was released on bail earlier this month.
Mere advocacy or criticizing the government itself cannot be termed as being seditious. But that is what is happening in Modi's India.
Last month, while alluding to US Ambassador Richard Verma’s remark on “free speech” being “the hallmark of democracy both in India and the US”, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, without taking names, had hit back in Parliament asking if the US would “tolerate” any campus meeting on its soil to mark the “Osama bin Laden martyrdom anniversary”. Naidu had said this in the context of alleged anti-national slogans being raised during an event in JNU on February 9.
Naidu may feel that no American university would allow students to commemorate Osama bin Laden on campus the way Afzal Guru’s death was marked in JNU, but Princeton University President Chirstopher L Eisgruber begs to differ.
“We at Princeton believe that it is a fundamental advantage for a university to be able to tolerate even offensive kinds of speech and to respond to bad arguments when they are made with more speech rather than with disciplinary actions,” he said.