Should The St Xavier’s Principal Have Said What He Did?

St Xavier's College principal Dr Frazer Mascarenhas

There’s a new political controversy doing the rounds—as Dr Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College, wrote a letter to students encouraging them to vote and voicing his grievances on certain issues affecting the country (like the Gujarat model).

So, why has a letter that does not even name a single political party, religion or candidate created such a hullaballoo? Twitter was abuzz with #xaviers trending all of yesterday; students, academicians and politicians swore their support (or otherwise) of the letter; and the BJP complained to the Election Commission.

In a country that reveres free speech and democracy, isn’t it ironic how touchy we get with people putting up their personal viewpoints? If Dr Mascarenhas cannot be allowed to air his views, how can we be okay with the rampant campaigning and canvassing that relentlessly goes on for months before the elections take place? Besides, this isn’t an emotional ramble of thoughts and feelings; it’s a carefully collated collection of facts that are public domain anyway.

Yes, Human Development Index indicators show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years. Yes, schools in the state have had a high dropout rate in the last 10 years. And yes, till 2013, the state, with 15 per cent tribal population, has settled only 32 per cent of the claims, the lowest rate in the country. So, why should we ban a letter that merely states these facts?

In a free country like India, isn’t it a great thing that voters are being educated and made to see both sides of the coin before they exercise that all-important vote? By creating an issue out of this, we are only killing our own free speech and right to information.

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Please note: All opinions expressed are that of the author.

Photos courtesy: Indian Express and stxaviers.net

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