Manipur academicians hit back at government's move to gag academic freedom

Speaking to the 'Imphal Free Press', general secretary, Federation of Government College Teachers’ Association (FEGOCTA), N Somorendro contended that the whole purpose of education, research, academic and intellectual life, knowledge will go to waste if the government impose restrictions on academic freedom.

 

Academicians and intellectuals in Manipur have expressed outrage over the state government “putting an apparent restriction in exercising academic freedom” by making government college teachers and other staff working under the higher education department, take necessary approval before publishing or making any statement regarding any government policy or programme in the media. 

“On several instances, some government college teachers have been writing or expressing their views on government policies/programmes in the media which is likely to promote defiance of authority or which amounts to adverse criticism of the government policies/programmes. As such, government college teachers and other staff working under the directorate of university and higher education should take due approval before publishing or making statements regarding any government policy or programme in the media,” the directorate notified on Monday. 

Referring to Section 9 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, the directorate said that no government servant should make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central or a state government. It also warned that appropriate disciplinary action may be initiated against the teachers if they fail to do so. 

Speaking to the Imphal Free Press, general secretary, Federation of Government College Teachers’ Association (FEGOCTA), N Somorendro contended that the whole purpose of education, research, academic and intellectual life, knowledge will go waste if the government impose restrictions on academic freedom.  “There can be no intellectual and moral growth with such restrictions,” he said.

Somorendro further said that the extension of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 to university and college teachers is still an ongoing debate. Other universities like the Delhi University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University have witnessed huge outrage and protests against attempts to extend the same to the academic circle, he observed.

Besides, according to the Code of Professional Ethics as laid down in the guidelines of UGC, “Teachers should express their free and frank opinions by participating at professional meetings, seminars, conferences, etc. towards the contribution of knowledge. They should also work to improve education in the community and strengthen the community’s moral and intellectual life,” he said.

“As the college and university teachers are bound by the UGC guidelines and Code of Professional Ethics, expressing free and frank opinions is a part of the academic freedom,” he stated, stressing that knowledge needs debate and criticism. 

Raising questions on why the government is feeling insecure and apprehensive of facing criticism, he said, “We will fight back. We are seriously concerned about such restrictions and will come up with our stand very soon,” he added. 

Meanwhile, one teacher of Dhanamanjuri University, who chose to remain anonymous, opined that the government’s move will be a major stumbling block in enhancing research, critical thinking and knowledge. 

“The government’s move contradicts the very spirit of National Education Policy, 2020 which not only encourages academic freedom but to promote critical thinking in higher education,” he said. 

While noting that such restrictions on academic freedom will have an adverse impact in the long run, he urged the government to take back the order in the interest of academic freedom and free press. 

The teacher also said that democracy will not work without criticism and the government should take criticism as an intrinsic element of democracy.

 

First Published:Aug. 12, 2020, 9:57 p.m.