Civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad on Tuesday said cutbacks in postgraduate and doctoral scholarships by University Grants Commissions (UGC) was aimed at silencing the voices of students at central universities.
Speaking at a discussion on ‘Freedom of Speech, My Right’, organised by CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti, Setalvad said: “Every structure of our democracy has gotten further hegemonised, rather than getting more democratised… Not just what is happening at JNU, but what is happening at all central universities today. The real fight back is coming from young students who are capturing opposition space by challenging an extremely hegemonic government. 25,000 UGC PhD and PG scholarships were cut back last year. 35,000 scholarships are likely to be cut now. That means you will not have a Kanhaiya Kumar or Rohit Vemula or Sheila Rashid or Umar Khalid, because you do not want these sections to come and question the set-up.”
She also wondered why there had been no reports of lynching in the previous regime. “The entire culture of lynching that this regime has encouraged. How come there was no Mohammad Akhlaq incident. How come there was no Mohammad Ayub incident. How come there was no Pehlu Khan or Junaid Khan incident before May 2014? The storm troopers on the streets function with an understanding and belief that the regime at the top protects them,” she said.
Speaking at the event, former Editor of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said the country’s law was being misused under the present regime. “Legal notices are being sent these days very often. I do not know whether defamation suits were filed in Congress regime for expressing your views. There is a rampant misuse of law under the regime of the present central government. However, there are many who are fighting against the propaganda, and it is our obligation and responsibility to support those who are fighting censorship on views,” he said.
Megha Pansare, professor of Russian at Shivaji University in Kolhapur, asked liberals and “free thinkers” to fight against “rightist” forces.