Friday, December 31, 2004

Ashis Nandy on academic freedom and the state

This was also written about three weeks ago; I am moving it here ...

Times of India published on 4 December 2004 an op-ed by Ashis Nandy under the title: "The Other Emergency: Indian State Has Stifled Intellectual Freedom". I suggest you read the article, simply because Nandy is willing to name a few villains (however, all of them are either dead, and otherwise out of the limelight). His rant is specific to social sciences; some of it sounds quite alien to those of us in science and engineering. After reading Nandy's piece, one ends up feeling pretty sorry for Indian academics in the social sciences.

More importantly, Nandy's piece is a call for greater academic freedom. He ends it on a poignant note:

We love to talk once in a while on the brain drain but we hate to admit that most gifted scholars run away from the country not for money but to protect their dignity and avoid the loving embrace of the intellectually challenged bureaucracy.

I have one minor quibble, though: one gets the impression that, according to Nandy, academic freedom is not something that is exercised by the academics themselves, but to be given away by the state (probably since the state took it away in the first place). Here is a quote:

"It requires the state to return higher education to their practitioners and to give them priority over semi-literate politicians and bureaucrats".
Now, this doesn't sound like a viable proposal, does it?