• The Fear of Discussion Spreads: MSU Baroda Cancels Workshop on Caste

    Statement from the Indian Cultural Forum Collective

    March 8, 2017

    Yet another Indian university has been deprived of its reason for existence: discussing the society we live in, so we can understand it, maybe even think of how to change it.

    The Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda has cancelled a day-long workshop on the politics of caste and social movements in the country, citing the recent violence in Ramjas. Entitled ‘Reading the Margins: Politics of Caste and Social Movements in India’ the workshop, which was to be held on March 5, 2017, is organised by Institute of Policy Research and International Studies and was to be addressed by Professor Ghanshyam Shah. Funds were raised from 60 students who were to participate in the workshop to conduct the workshop.

    The university administration expressed fears that there would be a “backlash” from “some people” – these some people ostensibly the ABVP in particular, or the right-wing in general. Does this mean that any group backed by the ruling dispensation can threaten an institute into cancelling events that discuss caste, caste politics and other realities in India?

    This is not the first time a university event has been canceled or indefinitely postponed” because of fear of the a right-wing group, or because of active interference by the right-wing. In February 2017, the ABVP wrote a letter to the JNU administration demanding an event named “A Country Without a Post Office” be called off. Subsequently, the then student union President of JNU, Kanhaiya Kumar, was arrested by the Delhi police. Last month, the ABVP locked down a seminar room in Ramjas College in protest against an invitation to student activist Umar Khalid to participate in a panel discussion on tribals in Bastar, the subject of this dissertation. The college authorities bowed down to ABVP and withdrew the invitation to Khalid. Fear, cancellation of events, no discussion, debate or learning; or violence. This seems to be the choice for educational institutions if we live in fear of the right-wing.

    The Indian Cultural Forum Collective strongly condemns this distortion of the educational process. We call on all citizens to refuse to be afraid of “some people” — right-wing goons who have no interest in learning – and insist on a full and diverse discussion of issues, such as caste, that are critical to understand the country we live in.


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