A student of IIT Madras has written a strongly-worded letter to the institute’s director protesting the speech given by retired army officer Major General GD Bakshi on Thursday. Bakshi spoke at the institute as part of the Extra Mural Lectures (EML) on the occasion of Independence Day. His address was on the subject ‘Rise of the Indian Army and National Security’.
Abhinav Surya, an MTech student of the institute, complained that Bakshi’s speech was ‘filled with hatred instigating violence among the students.’ According to Abhinav, Bakshi said the best way to strengthen unity was to fight Pakistan. “The level of hatred in his speech was going out of proportions when he said, and I quote, “In our generation, we split Pakistan into 2. Your generation should split it into 4. Only then we can live in peace!’ ” he wrote in the letter. Bakshi, who has authored several books, is a regular on debates on national security on TV shows.
In his response to Abhinav, Bhaskar Ramamurthi, the director of the institute, said the EML team would look into his complaint and see whether any legal boundaries were crossed with regard to incitement of violence. At the same time, he clarified that the lectures are not official events and therefore do not reflect on the institute.
Meanwhile, Speaking to The News Minsute, Bakshi said he stands by what he had said in the lecture and it was just “10-12 Kashmiri students and other left wing liberals” who protested.
“I was invited to address the gathering of students on the subject of ‘Indian army and national security’, and I began by saying that for the last 30 years, we have constantly been at war with Pakistan and thousands have been killed. From 1993 onwards, we have been fighting terrorism in major cities. My contention was that we should equally support the freedom movements in Balochistan. We have been stabbed in the back many times as Pakistan has been constantly preparing hostile activity against us. What is wrong with that?” Bakshi said.
Justifying the use of nuclear weaponry, Bakshi added: “They tried to break up India, so we need to break them up into 4, of course. How many times will we be stabbed in the back? We have repeatedly gotten stabbed in the back, and the leftist liberal ideology is used to promote sedition. Which nation can support its own break up? So many men have laid down their lives to fight in these wars, and we should respect them and do justice to them. I am amazed that this is called hate speech.”
Abhinav Surya’s letter to IIT-Madras director
I am writing this letter to you with a bleeding heart, worried about the recent EML lecture by Mr. GD Bakshi on 11th Aug, 2016. I am still not able to digest the fact the institute has given a platform to such a speech filled with hatred, instigating violence among the students. A lecture that was heavily loaded with brewing enmity, inhumanity and glorification of brutality.
I hope that EML team would present to you the video recording of the lecture. I request you to kindly watch it so that it’ll be clear that this is not an empty accusation. The speaker was constantly making direct and indirect comments that were instilling a sense utter disrespect for human life and a deep rooted sense of hatred and enmity towards the people of our neighboring countries. Right from when he glorified the ‘skull-smashing elephants’ of ancient India to him saying, and I quote, “Fight Pakistan. That will strengthen the unity!”, the lecture was designed to foster irrational jingoism.
The level of hatred in his speech was going out of proportions when he said, and I quote, “In our generation, we split Pakistan into 2. Your generation should split it into 4. Only then we can live in peace!”. And later he went on to glorify nuclear weaponry and justified the usage of it. (At this point, I am ignoring other horrendous comments made about justification of usage of metal pellets against civilians in Kashmir (which has been severely criticized by several human rights organisations including Amnesty International), misrepresentation of facts regarding the history, unscientific claims by quoting mythology as facts, glorification of lighting cities up on fire, expression of clear-cut affiliation to a particular political party, etc., which may be considered as politically debatable topics). The underlying implication behind his constant call to “give tit-for-tat” was for calling out students to take up violent aggressiveness as their strategy (This might even be the reason for the violent behavior of few students in the hall who were intimidating the students who were trying to question the speaker).
The speaker made the utmost insulting comment when he said mocked our freedom movement and made fun of it. According to him, only Indians in Indian army got us freedom and whatever everyone else was doing in the name of ‘Ahimsa’ was nonsense! This is a complete insult to the lakhs and lakhs of masses who fought bravely against the British imperialism. I am unable to imagine the fact that we, IIT Madras, gave the speaker a platform to make such insulting comments about our freedom movement, especially in the name of “Special Independence Day Lecture”. If this does not show shame IITM in a bad light, then I don’t know what else does!
At this point, I may be brushed aside as a person with certain political affiliations who cannot tolerate contesting views. But let me make it clear that I have not been so seriously concerned in the past about several other lectures with contents contesting my views. But this is not a mere speech with contesting views, but a dangerous hate speech! Anyone who loves humanity, anyone who loves people and not symbols, anyone who wants to eliminate hate and spread love would have cried at the level of hate mongering in the lecture!
As much as I want freedom of expression to be upheld, I am seriously concerned, as a student of IIT Madras about the sustenance of peace and harmony among various students of IIT Madras. I hope necessary actions will be taken.
Response of IIT-Madras director
You may be aware that EML team decides the speakers the students want to invite.
They invite people from all walks of life and with widely varying views. They do not check with
the Admin on this. If the speaker is a constitutional functionary, they check my availability since
there are protocol issues to be complied with.
I am copying the EML core on this email. I request them to look into your complaint to see
if any legal boundaries were crossed with regard to incitement to violence, etc. No public speaker, EML
or otherwise, can cross these.
Beyond that, it is upto the EML core to decide what is the width of the spectrum of views the students
want to hear, contest, debate. You are also a student here, so please interact with them and
influence their decisions on the matter.
These are not official events of the Institute, and so do not reflect on the Institute in any manner.
With warm regards
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