Freedom of speech should not be suppressed at universities: Hamid Ansari

Batting for freedom of speech and scope for debates over it at the university levels, Vice Presidentof India M Hamid Ansari on Friday said that universities were forums of free speech and debate. He, however, maintained that suppression of such discourse only breeds mistrust and begets social malcontent.

“Long term viability and stability of a democratic polity is crucially dependent in the maintenance and development of the educational level of our population, and on the individual’s ability to form independent and enlightened opinions. The universities can act as both,the weather vanes and safety valves of political dissent and direction,” the Vice President said in his valedictory addressat the centenary celebrations of the University of Mysore.

Ansari said that to see universities simply as instruments for immediate economic benefit would be a fundamental error. To confine universities to such a mechanical place in the progress of society is to diminish them.”The universities, even as they valiantly play the role of ‘growth engines of the society’ have a larger, long-term and positive role to play. The trans-formative potential of universities is most acutely needed in societies like India where we struggle against societal inequalities and deep-seated prejudices,”he added.

He further said the inculcation of general knowledge and ‘learnedness’ which are the classical roles of the university have strong and long term economic impacts on our societies in the form of increased trust, transparency,ability to handle change and social cohesion.”Erosion of social cohesion can have massive personal, social, as also economic costs.”

Ansari was confident that the UoM will continue to play its role as a neutral assembler of talent; that of an unmatched idea factory where the passion, creativity and idealism of young minds can be applied to meet the transitional needs of our society, polity and economy.He, however, did not forget to recall the contributions of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and Sir M Visvesvaraya saying “the genesis of UoM lay in the extraordinary vision of these two individuals who were one of the most brilliant engineering minds that India has produced. UoM was the first university in India outside of the British governed areas,” he said.

On the occasion, he unveiled the bronze statue of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the founder of the university; two new buildings, and released over a dozen Kannada and English books.

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