An Indian government minister has claimed that an “alliance of subversion” is active on campuses and argued that free speech should be subordinate to “the sovereignty of the country”.
His comments came in the wake of violence at the University of Delhi’s Ramjas College after an invitation to two students from Jawaharlal Nehru University to speak at a seminar on the “culture of protests” was withdrawn by college authorities, a move that was seen as a threat to freedom of expression by critics.
The withdrawal of the invitation came after opposition to the seminar from the ABVP, which is linked to the governing Hindu nationalist BJP party, and sparked clashes on campus between the group and the “Left-affiliated” All India Students Association (AISA), the newspaper said.
Amnesty International India stated: “Academic freedom in universities must be protected. Recent events at Ramjas College in Delhi illustrate the growing threat to freedom of expression on Indian university campuses.”
Asked about the incident, Mr Jaitley said: “I personally believe that free speech in India, and in any society, has to be debated.”
He also said: “I find this absolutely strange that an argument is being raised that I have free speech to advocate that India should be broken into pieces and those who oppose me are hindering that right to free speech.”
Mr Jaitley continued: “Violence is not the method; no group can and should use violence…there is an alliance of subversion which is taking place.
“The separatists and the ultra-Left are speaking the same language in certain university campuses. So they must be willing to allow others with a different opinion to put a counter viewpoint.”