The recent ban of the Periyar Ambedkar study circle at the IIT, Madras,. by the IIT, Madras Management, has invited wide spread criticism, as it seemingly affects freedom of speech and expression.

Except the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, and of course the State unit of the BJP, all other parties have condemned the act, and are now going on protest to get the ban lifted.

While there may be two or more opinions on whether distributing pamphlets by the students on certain aspects of Hinduism can be termed "anti-social" or "political" and so on, the whole episode simply amounts to the same thing: we, as Indians, tend to oversimplify everything, and also overdo everything.

Neither of these two extremes is  desirable in the first place.  Against such a vital issue such as corruption, we turn a blind eye, and simply ask "who is not corrupt?" .  This is exactly what happened some years ago, in a meeting at Chennai, to discuss the subject.  A group of high-society ladies, who were seated on the dais, repeatedly supported the idea that corruption cannot be stopped.  

Much to the surprise of even the organizers, each of the six women, each of whom were wearing some of the most fashionable, designer sleeveless blouses, simply shrugged off their bare shoulders and left in a huff.  So much for trivializing such a major issue.  This is the one end of the spectrum.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the most vociferous protests from the political parties.

Why do we tend to go to either of the two extremes?  Why is that we are not consistent with everything that is wrong around us, and do something about it?

The answer is very complex and cannot be explained by one single explanation.

For example, for securing a single berth in a second class sleeper coach, we do not mind paying that "extra" to the travelling examiner, and make no bones about it.  Yet, we talk about corruption.  But, those who talk about corruption in such quarters is so small a minority.  We do not have the numbers to fight against it, for, literally each of us have accepted such corruption "as a way of life"./

How many of us dare to think beyond the very ordinary and fight, for example, for the rights of tribal people, or the rampant corruption that goes on in most public distribution places, that affects the very poor people? 

This is exactly what needs to change --- we should be consistent against every form of injustice.  

The IIT, Madras saga is one that needs to be revisited, as there is more to it than meets the eye.  

So, what needs to be done?  A very sane and perfect idea about what are the issues and why there is so much protest needs to be understood very closely.  

For example, under no circumstances can freedom of speech be tampered with.  No one can deny freedom of speech, of dissent and of expression.  However, this freedom of speech should be carefully understood in a broader light -- we should first understand that IITs or such other institutions of merit should not be allowed to become hotbeds of politics, or future politicians. 

We have already had a huge minus in terms of falling standards of education everywhere.  We cannot allow the IIT to become one such.  We need to understand that the IITs and IIMs are among the best in the world.  While freedom of speech is fine, what should be borne in mind is that there are limits under which this freedom of speech can be tolerated or allowed.

So, we need to understand where to draw the line.  A series of meetings with the Management of the IIT, Madras, and very senior academicians like sociologists who have really made a big mark elsewhere, should be urgently arranged to take stock of each and every single point and then clearly spell the rules in black and white.  Once this done, the matters will become very simple. 

Similarly, when we know that some injustice is being done, we all need to jump into the fray and take up the larger issue of going the full hog and ensuring that we all protest.  A pure silence in some quarters and huge protests in another, does not make it a right approach.

We should not allow political parties to enter the fray.  Unfortunately, this has become the case with the IIT, Madras issue.  While the ruling party is quiet, the Opposition, including the DMK, are very confidently into the fray, showing their anger against the IIT, Management.

Any serious protest, should be apolitical.  The NGOs, the sociologists, the social workers, the environmental specialists should all get together to prompt huge debates and then take on the inevitable action. This will create more awareness of the real issues involved.  We cannot have extremes of total action and total inaction.  This will only add to apathy among the people, who are already fed up with the most corrupt politicians, officials, and so on.  We cannot create any situation where such anger can be more even severe.  


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