An open letter to the President from students of Indian Institute of Science

Some students of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have started a signature campaign to preserve democratic spaces inside academic institutions. Amidst the recent incidents at JNU, students at IISc have written an open letter to the President of India to seek redressal for the issue at JNU last month.

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, a student organisation at IISc, Concern, started a signature campaign where many students of IISc came and supported the right to freedom of speech. Concern tries to foster a debate on socio-politico-economic issues in the academic and scientific community of Bangalore. In the past, they have debated about the idea of Free Basics and Net Neutrality, and turmoil at the University of Hyderabad and the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Concern regularly organises discussions, guest lectures, and film screenings to educate the IISc community about socio-politico-economic issues.

“What happened at JNU, challenges our right to freedom of speech,” said Vikram Pal Singh, General Secretary, IISc Gymkhana. Singh added, “The motive behind this signature campaign is to request the President to allow students to express their opinions freely.”

The open letter stated to the President speaks about the aggression by the state and state-sponsored mobs. It states that academic campuses are democratic spaces where ideas should be debated, critiqued, and refined. Dissent expressed democratically is the only way to generate thoughts that will aid in the progressive journey of our country. According to MR Chandrashekhar, Chief Security Officer at IISc, “Students don’t want to be questioned about their basic rights by the government. This is why they wrote an open letter to the President asking him to intervene.” 

Meanwhile, a group of students at IISc who were displeased with this campaign opposed it aggressively. Chandrashekhar said, “On Monday, while the protest was going, some students became aggressive and damaged the signature collection desk and tore up the posters. They tried to stop the campaign because they thought it brought a bad name to the institute.”

Another student at IISc, said, “What happened at JNU is alarming, and the matter cannot be left in isolation. The motive behind this campaign is not to achieve something, but to request the President to allow individuals to express opinions.”

The signature campaign takes place during lunch hours from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.outside mess C and D at IISc. The individuals who support the campaign can sign the open letter.The campaign is expected to continue for a few more days.