I am Bengalistan and I am ashamed.
Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal has drafted new rules that govern which opinions professors and college teachers at state government-run institutions are allowed to express in public:
According to the draft rules :
No employees of state government run universities will be allowed to express anything that amounts to “adverse criticism” of any policy or action of the government.
There are many chilling aspects about this, but there are two that I find especially disturbing, which is why I have underlined them in red.
The first is that criticism of the government is to be banned both anonymously and otherwise. The paranoia over anonymous criticism adds that extra bit of draconian edge to these censorship rules; and indicates that she is dead serious about implementing the gag order. In TMC’s Bengal, academics should not feel safe merely because they dared to criticize the Chief Minister from behind a veil of anonymity. The government is making it clear that they will be hunted down, their anonymity stripped away and the dissenters will be punished.
The second is that the rules bar employees even from making “statement of fact” that has the effect of criticizing the government. A ban on facts!
Absolutely breathtaking in its ruthlessness. Academics, researchers, who are supposed to dig up the truth, who are required to present the unvarnished, unadulterated truth as part of their profession are now to be banned in Bengal from stating any facts that would have the effect of criticizing the government!
Notice the deliberately loose language which shows just how broad the sweep of these new rules is going to be. The ban is not just on criticizing the government but on expressing any fact or opinion that would have the effect of criticizing the government.
In other words, no more stating the facts and letting the reader make up their own mind. As long as some reader could use the facts presented by you to criticize the government, you are still liable to be punished.
Dictators in every age have clamped down on opinions, but Mamata Banerjee might just have pioneered a ban on facts along with opinions.
I hope that the youth icons, academics and intellectuals of our great nation will unite and speak up in one voice to defend democracy from the clampdown of Mamata Banerjee. I hope there is going to be a flood of open letters and angry articles in various enlightened “news” portals, not to mention journalists and students hitting the streets nationwide.
I wouldn’t count on it though.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.