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mid-day editorial: Don't stifle or suppress free speech

The Mumbai police seems to be on an overdrive to foil any possibility of a political unrest, like the Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula uproar at campuses of higher education in the city.

Police have launched a drive to collect data on campus size, the number of buildings, the nature of courses as well as the number of students and the faculty from prominent educational institutes like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Vivekananda College, Vasantdada Patil College of Engineering, and Somaiya medical and engineering colleges. Deputy Commissioner of Police Shahaji Umap hinted that the drive is part of pre-emptive measures against campus unrests, a front-page report in mid-day said yesterday.

The police have claimed that the drive is for security concerns stemming from political unrest on campus and the growing demand for bringing back student elections.

Yet some students have raised doubts that the drive is actually a fallout of the Kanhaiya and Rohit Vemula episodes, where colleges and institutes which supported Kanhaiya are now on target or under surveillance.

Let a spirit of freedom and the right to dissent prevail on campus. While it is important, of course, to have security on campus, police reacting to problems and to combat violence stemming from unrest firmly, it is equally important to see that students and their opinions get an avenue. Let there be no stifling of free speech.

The college campus is the incubator for the leaders and opinion makers of tomorrow. If they are going to be suppressed or even live in the shadow of fear, we will live with the onus of having young people who are always going to be afraid of speaking out. Or, you might have a situation where the youth, frustrated and bottled up for not being allowed to express themselves, may start a violent revolution.

The three Ds – debate, dissent and differences — are in fact the cornerstone of another D – democracy. Let the campus nurture, safeguard and in fact, uphold them.

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