Doors being closed to please sometext_fields
The current era is one when give and take in the domains of knowledge, research and communication has assumed great importance. While the economic and political crises, the pandemic and climate issues do not have isolated solutions, even in a purely material sense, exchange of information at an international level is essential. However, there is a growing tendency in our country to close the doors of enquiry that should be open. This observation is prompted by two specific incidents in recent days. One of them is that Filippo Osella, a British anthropologist, was deported from the Thiruvananthapuram airport. The other is the blocking of journalist Rana Ayyub's trip to the UK at the Mumbai airport. These two doors, one for entry and the other for exit, were not closed on account for any offence. Both were barred from participating in thematic academic discussions - Rana Ayub, also a columnist for the 'Washington Post', was invited to a panel discussion attended by invited guests in London by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. The topic of discussion, which included experts, was online violence against women journalists and solutions. The panel consisted of women journalists and academics from different countries. The event and Rana Ayyub's involvement were announced in advance but she was stopped at the Mumbai airport on March 29, just before departure. Closely after this, she was also summoned to appear in court in a case. It was clear that the order to appear before the court on April 1, the day she was invited to be present in Britain, was intended to prevent her from showing up for the programme. With her detention, the organizers canceled the said discussion.
Filippo Osella's Thiruvananthapuram schedule was also purely academic. Osella, Professor of Anthropology and Researcher, University of Sussex, had arrived to attend an international conference on 'Climate change and issues in coastal life in Kerala', jointly organized by the University of Kerala, CUSAT, the Centre for Development Studies and the University of Sussex, UK. Osella, who has been conducting research on Kerala and Keralites for over thirty years and whose studies are all available in public domain, is well known and enjoys wide acceptance in the academic circles of the state. He was detained at the airport on March 25 and deported by immigration officials, said to be on the instructions of the Central government. Not only did the officials refuse to give any reason for their action, but they also behaved rudely. They sent him back even without allowing him to take out his medicines from his check-in bag. Thus they not only sent back a scholar, but also insulted him.
The damage inflicted on the country's reputation by s uch incidents is no small. No official explanation has been released for the Osella incident. The Chief Minister of Kerala had written a letter to the Prime Minister pointing this out. Although an unofficial explanation has been reported that Osella violated the visa rules, he denies it: he holds a research visa whose validity had not expired. Nor was he ever accused of violating visa conditions. The University of Sussex has made it clear that it will write to the Indian authorities in this regard. As for Rana Ayub, a statement issued by her host reacted that the Government of India was intolerant of independent journalism and critical evaluation. The government, which says there is no threat to media freedom in India, is itself proving otherwise, the statement said. It is unfortunate that the country is indulging in such acts that serve to underscore the criticism that India is afraid of open debate and academic discussions. In another instance, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, had fixed a talk by Adv. Prashant Bhushan on 'The Challenges faced by Indian Constitution', but the talk was canceled at the last minute. In Madhya Pradesh, a discourse on religious harmony of Prof Shamsul Islam was called off due to pressure. Disha Ravi, who fell out of favour of the Central government for opposing farm laws, could not attend the climate summit because the authorities deliberately delayed her passport. Such political interference in the academic arena is tarnishing the image of the country globally. Given the national interest and the importance of the realm of scholarship, it is necessary to curb this trend.