Backing Goa law college assistant professor Shilpa Singh’s right to freedom of expression, more than 30 academics, authors and civil society members have written to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who is also the Chancellor of Goa University, to urgently uphold the Indian “tradition of vichar (idea), samvaad (dialogue) and vaicharic sahishnuta (tolerance of dissenting views)”.
In a separate letter to Koshyari, Goa University teachers pointed to “safety concerns” for Singh based on hate messages she continues to receive.
Prof Rahul Tripathi of Goa University said that due to the threats, some of Singh’s past and present students have decided to take turns and keep vigil outside her house. “They are considering this until the State provides her protection,” he added.
On Monday, an FIR was registered against Singh, invoking IPC Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings), on a complaint by Rajiv Jha of the Rashtriya Yuva Hindu Vahini’s South Goa unit.
The petitioners stated, “We have a strong reason to believe this is being done at the behest of some extreme reactionary, right wing groups in Goa under whose pressure police have bowed to register an FIR against her.”
The letter points to “frivoulous and ill-founded FIRs” and reminds the state its duty to “protect the constitutional right of freedom of expression, and this means protecting those who express their truthful opinion”
The ABVP had initially complained against Singh’s methods of teaching and alleged that she promotes “socially hateful thoughts about a particular religion”. Following an inquiry, the college said it stands by its teacher. Subsequently, Jha lodged a police complaint on an April 21 Facebook post by Singh.
The petition stated, “We see the attack on Shilpa Singh as a systematic repression of academic freedom, considering that she has been making a case for the same in her speeches and writings. Her post is within the ambit of the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression. We also note that when it was brought to her notice that sentiments are hurt, she apologised and deleted the post, respecting the sentiments, notwithstanding her opinion.”
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