Is it a crime to question? SH College faculty booked over letter to PM

Is it a crime to question? SH College faculty booked over letter to PM
Dr. Asha Achy Joseph, Dean, SH School of Communication, Thevara.

Kochi: The students of SH College, Thevara, have taken up the cudgels against the bid to suppress dissent by the governmental machinery. They rallied behind Dr. Asha Achy Joseph, dean of school of Communication, who is one among the 49 eminent citizens recently booked over an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing alarm over the lynchings across the country and misuse of the slogan 'Jai Shri Ram'.

Dr. Asha was overwhelmed with the response of the students. "I believe this is a journey together for constitutional rights, democratic values, and a truly secular attitude. I am so proud to be surrounded by all of you who understand the same," Dr. Asha, an avid writer, stated in the college WhatsApp group.

“In a democratic country we generally write a letter to our rulers as we feel that we have a communication link with them. We write letters believing that they are working for us. Why should I be criminalised if I haven’t done any wrong? I am bewildered, I am shocked," she said when asked about her response to the development.

The Government should answer questions posed by the citizens of the country, Dr. Asha, who was earlier associated with two leading Malayalam television channels, noted.

On asked whether India last the lost the freedom to question, the broadcast media professional and teacher replied, “I have been living in Kerala and have been understanding the democratic process. What is so criminal about asking questions? And also in an academic sense asking questions should be encouraged and it points to the quality of education. Students see me as a person who encourages them to ask questions. So if I don’t ask questions, how can I tell the students to ask questions?

Is it a crime to question? SH College faculty booked over letter to PM
Jishnu (left) and Harikrishnan (right,) two journalism students who questioned the student community for resorting to armchair activism at a time when fascism in knocking at the doors.

Her students are also seething against the development.

Jishnu, a journalism student, questioned the student community for resorting to armchair activism at a time when fascism in knocking at the doors.

“According to Article 19 of the Constitution of India every citizen has the freedom of speech and expression. This fundamental right of the citizen has become questionable. Dissent and disagreement strengthen democracy. This incident is a clear example that our country is moving towards fascism,” Harikrishnan, another Journalism student, noted.

The SFI unit of Sacred Heart College e-mailed the same letter to PM with an intro which says they too support the views expressed by the 49 intellectuals. Some students plan to send copies of the letter by post.

It was in July 49 people, including filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap and Aparna Sen, wrote the letter which upset the right-wing elements. They even called for"exemplary punishment" for lynchings.

Dr. Asha was also a signatory to the letter. Other signatories to the letter dated July 23 are historian Ramachandra Guha, actor Soumitra Chatterjee, actress Konkona Sen Sharma and vocalist Shubha Mudgal.

A case was registered against them last week in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, on an order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate there on a plea filed by a local activist-lawyer named Sudhir Kumar Ojha, PTI had reported. He had approached the court alleging that the open letter signed by the eminent personalities "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the Prime Minister and supported secessionist tendencies."

They have been booked for charges including those for sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.

As reported earlier, 61 other noted people from various walks of life had responded to the open letter with their own. That letter questioned "the selective outrage and false narrative" of the 49, including Dr Asha. 

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