TISS:Dalit activist Arun Ferreira talk cancelled

February 16, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

freedom of expressionMumbai, February 13, 2015: In India “the situation of freedom of expression and thought is worsening day by day. And the worst thing is that those responsible for this decline are the security forces, and academic institutions, that should protect it. The pressure from the government, which even wants to ‘Hinduize’  education, has become unsustainable”, denounces I Arun Ferreira, a Dalits and tribals activist to AsiaNews. The activist was prevented from presenting his book in a University of Mumbai.

Imprisoned for four years on false charges, from 2007 to 2011, he was repeatedly the victim of torture in prison. Released and cleared of all charges, he has written a book – [“Colours of the Cage”, which can be found here ed] – which tells the story of a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment who has spent several decades in prison.

The text is a denunciation of the prison and legal system, and the general climate of political intolerance of contemporary India. The story is that of a fellow prisoner, a Muslim serving a life sentence. Ferreira highlights the discrimination suffered by religious minorities, the ideological abuse and violence not only from guards, but also of the other prisoners. All themes, he tells AsiaNews, “unwelcome to the current government.”

Invited by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai to present the book in the afternoon of 11 February, Ferreira was warned at the last minute of the cancellation of the event. The students who had contacted him explained that the police had entered the campus that morning and said that the activist “is under investigation on suspicion of being a Maoist” and therefore could not speak in public. Accusations, the man emphasizes, that are “completely false.”

What happened, he says, “is unfortunately not an isolated case. Directors and Deans of prestigious academic institutions throughout the country are being forced by the various wings of the State to tow a totalitarian line which crushes dissent, freedom of speech etc. Much of this is linked to the new government at the center and in Maharashtra. For this government changing the syllabii in education, sankritisation, etc are extremely important parts of their agenda. “

The Catholic Church is in the forefront in trying to curb this trend. Catholic educational institutions are among the best in the country, and although they are a small minority Catholics manage a huge number of schools. The renowned activist John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council and former president of the All India Catholic Union, told AsiaNews that he is calling on the population to “not to hand education over to to Hindu fundamentalists.”

– asianews

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