Academic Freedom is a complex concept. It pertains to several different aspects like autonomy in framing the curriculum, course content, classroom transaction (freedom to teach, research, disseminate and exchange knowledge, expression of new ideas etc.), assessment & evaluation. Dr Gilbert Sebastian, a political science teacher of Central University of Kerala has been suspended for violating Rule 9 of the Central Civil Service Rules, 1964 (Criticism of Government). Central University of Kerala is an autonomous institution, but there exists a faculty code of conduct. The Vice Chancellor after receiving a report from the three member enquiry committee appointed by him, has found clear evidence of serious transgressions of the code of conduct and he has acted as per the rule of law prevailing in the country. The teacher in question has admitted that his PPT (given below) and the online lecture do contain the following remarks and further he has dragged in RSS and VHP as examples of proto-fascist organisations in a classroom deliberation. The text of which is:
“The RSS and its affiliate organisations, together called as the Sangh Parivar, meaning the Sangh family (including the BJP) in India can also be considered proto-fascist.”
Other Fascist & proto-fascist States
Spain under General Franco, Portugal under Salazar, Argentina under Juan Peron (1946-55), Chile under Pinochet (1973-1990), The apartheid regime in South Africa (1945-1990), The Hutu ultranationalist and supremacist movement that committed the genocide of Tutsi people and their supporters in Rwanda in early 1990s.
Gnassingbe Eyadema, the dictator of Togo from 1967 to 2005 is considered an example of tropical fascism in Africa. The monarchy in Saudi Arabia, a Wahabi regime may be considered a proto-fascist regime.
India under Narendra Modi (2014-…)?
The faculty member who has been reprimanded is a habitual offender, who had been censured earlier too by the administration in the form of disciplinary actions. His present ‘political rant’ inside a classroom shows his utter disregard for the rules governing such institutions. Such premeditated invective against a democratically elected government and political activism in a class is clearly intended to undermine the legitimacy of the government. A casual glance through his lecture notes demonstrates the political bias, which does not validate academic freedom. The audacious and far-fetched comparison of some of the previous era dictatorships with present dispensation at the centre defies all logic and is tantamount to being subversive. It is certainly a veiled call to indoctrinate students or manipulate public opinion to topple the government. He has complained of ‘cherry picking’ his ‘innocuous’ hate-speech after using the insulation of academic freedom. Teachers and curricula in higher education should not impose any strait jacketed views which will certainly imperil the future of democracy in the country. On the contrary, academic freedom is a collective duty rather than an individual right to teach from biased perspective or to utter divisive, vitriolic diatribe to realize one’s desired learning outcome.