The fear of freedom in Gujarat - By Ramachandra Guha - IAMC
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The fear of freedom in Gujarat – By Ramachandra Guha

Earlier this week, Jignesh Mevani, an elected member of the Gujarat assembly, was stopped from speaking at the H.K. Arts College in Ahmedabad, where he had himself once studied. He had been invited by the principal, who was forced to rescind the invitation by the college’s trustees, who had been intimidated by Hindutva hooligans. The principal and his vice-principal resigned in protest.…

When I first visited Gujarat, 40 years ago, it was known as a state where scholars, scientists, writers and artists were given respect (as well as refuge). The legacy of Hansa Mehta and of Vikram Sarabhai was alive. Speaking to professors at the M.S. University, and to students at the NID, one sensed waves of creative energy flowing through them. These institutions were rooted in Gujarat, yet were simultaneously of India, and of the world.

In recent years, however, there has been a conspicuous shrinking of the space for intellectual work in Gujarat. The perception among the state’s elite is that independent-minded scholars make trouble for politics and for business, or, more particularly, for politicians as well as businessmen. A wave of communal and caste riots has inculcated a sense of paranoia and insecurity among the citizenry, which is not conducive to reflective thinking or original research. This philistinism was set in motion before Narendra Modi became chief minister; but it undoubtedly accelerated in the 13 years he was in office in the state.…