Silencing Dissent: Pondicherry University Bans Student Magazine

Credit: Vijay Murthy/Twitter

Credit: Vijay Murthy/Twitter

A magazine that was distributed by students at Pondicherry Central University was banned less than a week since its launch. Indian Express, quoted sources claiming that the ban was a result of a conflict with local BJP and ABVP units who found the content of the magazine offensive. They claimed that it was ‘critical’ of the government.

The magazine Widerstand (meaning resistance in German) was burnt outside the gates of the university in a sit-in organised by the BJP. Huffingpost reported that an ABVP activist claimed that the magazine was ‘anti-national’.

The authorities denied having any knowledge of the content of the magazine and were quick to seal up the student council room where 4,000 copies of the magazine were stored.

A senior university official said that the university was looking into the matter and claimed that the magazine was launched without the vice chancellor’s knowledge.

Vice chancellor Anisa B. Khan said, “We have not banned it. But we have appointed a committee to go through the magazine’s contents and suitable action will be taken if it has violated any rules,”

The student council, however, said in a statement that they were “witnessing imposition of another HCU and JNU style raid over the democratic space inside the university” and were worried that the attack was now on Pondicherry University.

The statement further said that the university had issued a show-cause notice to the chief editor of a students’ magazine, and that the vice  chancellor had asked the magazine committee to omit sections that criticised the government. The students have refused. The statement further read:

However, once the RSS, BJP, ABVP and the MHRD started this systematic attack over this magazine, university administration too has started toeing this line. It is interesting to note that while the MHRD has acted in a haste to pounce on the students this time, it waited for 18 days when students had launched a massive demonstration in July-August, 2015 demanding the removal of fraudulent VC.

The students suspected an attempt at ‘saffronisation’ of the university. The first article in the magazine is titled, ‘Turning into Saffron Concentration Camps’. The magazine takes a firm stance about Rohith Vemulas’s suicide, calling it ‘institutional murder’, and also goes ahead to criticise former HRD minister, Smriti Irani.

“The magazine aims at upholding freedom of speech in particular. The content of the magazine evaluates how the current governmental regime affects the educational system of our nation,” Anjali G., editor of the magazine, told the Deccan Chronicle.

University spaces have repeatedly suffered unrest under the BJP government, starting with the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the University of Hyderabad (HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).