The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday, June 18, cleared the draft Uttar Pradesh Private Universities Ordinance 2019, seeking a promise that they will ensure that no anti-national activity will take place in the campuses. The ordinance, which seeks to bring 27 private universities under the ambit of an umbrella organisation, proposed that the universities will face action in case of any violation.
In a statement, the Uttar Pradesh government said that the objective of the universities will be national integration, secularism, social harmony, international goodwill, ethics and attempts should also be made to inculcate patriotism in students. It added,“Among the requirements, which are required to be fulfilled by the establishing institution, a provision has been made to give an undertaking that their university will not be involved in any anti-national activities and neither will they allow such activity inside their campus or in their name.”
However, the draft did not mention the name of the private universities which will be governed by the ordinance. The universities will be given a period of one-year to promulgate the proposed law.
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But academics from different universities in the state argue that the ordinance fails to understand the basic tenets of any university and undermines individual freedom and autonomy. Najmul Islam, an eminent professor at Aligarh Muslim University, said, "What was the need of this legislation. If somebody indulges in any anti-national activity, there are enough laws to prosecute the person. Are existing laws too light to prosecute the guilty?"
He added that the ordinance in question is in contravention with the norms of international standards which it proposes to comply. “Global experience tells us that research can only thrive in institutions where government intervention in academic affairs is minimal," he said.
Professor Rakesh Chandra, who teaches Philosophy at University of Lucknow, said that the government must understand the nature and functions of universities. He said, “A university is not an institution which will produce doctors and engineers. We have other institutes for that purpose. A university is a place which will produce citizens with a critical outlook.... We teach different theories about nation, nation-state etc. Does it mean that we should stop teaching these subjects? I think, the government must understand that criticising it cannot be termed as anti-national. If somebody questions the death of children in Muzaffarpur, will they (government) label him as anti-national?"