Amidst the furore about "freedom of artistic expression" surrounding the scandalous episode at the MS University, Vadodara, it is essential that the wider and more worrying aspects of the case are not ignored . The episode is disturbing at several levels
- At a basic level, every citizen of India--whether an artist or not--is guaranteed freedom of
- In this case, the self-expression was not made in public but in the private domain. Thus no outsider was affected . If this action of the police becomes an accepted precedent, no one in this country will be safe from invasion of his or her privacy.
- The student was creating a work as part of his academic course. Only his teacher or examiner or head of department had the right to decide whether the work was acceptable. In any teaching institute, the freedom of the teachers and students to take up for exploration controversial, even unpleasant, topics has to be safeguarded. This is precisely why universities are guaranteed autonomy, and outside organs, like the police, are prohibited entry .
- Most important of all--and this point has scarcely been made in all the public debates I have seen in the media--
it is the duty of the Vice-Chacellor to protect his staff and students, and to safeguard their right to undisturbed work.
In the present case, the Vice-Chancellor should have stopped the police from entering the campus. If he was unaware of their plan of attack, his first response, once he knew of what was happening, should have been to throw the police out and seek the immediate release of his student. Instead, the VC seems to have compounded the folly by suspending the Dean and closing down the exhibition curated by students.
The VC is, in fact, the true culprit in this case. He has proved himself shockingly incompetent or irresponsible. He should be asked to resign and, if he doesn't, sacked.
This is no minor episode. It threatens the very principles which are basic to our civilization. If we do not act to prevent a possible repetition of such an episode, only deluge will follow.