Kashmiri and Indian scholars have expressed outrage over the Indian government’s order for all public universities and institutions to seek approval before hosting international online forums on Kashmir and other matters.
Indian education ministry’s revised circular dated January 15 requires educational institutions, publicly-funded universities and government-owned or funded organizations to seek permission from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before organizing online seminars covering various topics, particularly Kashmir.
As per the revised guidelines implemented with “immediate effect”, those taking part in seminars must also have their names recorded and approved by the government. Before the latest guidelines, prior approval was required from the MEA to organize foreign conferences or seminars in India – specifically those involving non-Indians arriving in the country on a conference visa – with the latest order being extended to webinars, too.
The experts have said the decision creates an “iron curtain” over free thought. Kashmir-based academics have labeled the decision a totalitarian move.
Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain of Srinagar-based Central University of Kashmir in an interview said, “They are trying to raise iron curtains around India, which is unsustainable. This is the inception of a totalitarian state, and that is how totalitarian states behaved in the past.” He maintained that a university should be a universe where academics discuss issues without any restrictions and where new ideas are generated. Therefore, he added, the guideline is a problem for those who want to discuss issues and also a problem for academics.—KMS