Editorial: Campus Protests And Free Speech

Editorial: Campus Protests And Free Speech

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, April 29, 2024, 09:48 PM IST
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The anti-war protests in US campuses over Israel’s unrelenting attacks on the Palestinian people have reignited the debate on free speech. Reminiscent of the anti-Vietnam war campus demonstrations of the Sixties, these protests have clearly divided American society. What began in the Ivy League Columbia University has now spread to numerous campuses across the US. The protestors are doubling down on their demand for the universities to cut off all ties with companies that are funding Israel. The crackdown on student activists is common to both the Vietnam era protests and the current situation. What is different is the current explosion of social media whereby the narrative is twisted and an agenda is perpetrated by both sides of the divide. While the Conservative lobby is crying foul and alleging rampant anti-Semitism, the liberal lobby is taking on the establishment for its blatant support for Israel despite its inexcusable assault on innocent civilians in Gaza.

Campus demonstrations have often been harbingers of change. Be it the 1968 student agitation in France, the Vietnam era protests in the US, the Tiananmen Square demonstration in China, the anti-apartheid stir of the 1980s or even the Navnirman Andolan that originated in Gujarat in 1974 and ultimately led to the downfall of Indira Gandhi in India post the Emergency, these events have had a profound impact on society. The idealism of youth is sometimes strong enough to take on the cynicism of politicians and overthrow jaded political systems. What is happening in the US now in election season is bound to cause severe rifts in the social fabric. With the Conservative and liberal lobbies targeting each other, university authorities need to tackle the crisis with cool heads and a sane attitude. There is no room for a violent approach to the issue that is roiling campuses across the US.

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