Umar Khalid’s Right to Speak

As a believer in the absolutism of free speech, I am in support of anyone and everyone who prefers to voice his utterances, invited or otherwise. Any disruption, muzzling or suppression of somebody’s right of speech is a precedent upon which mine and your right would be muzzled someday. But, I am a little apprehensive over the choice of speaker invited to Ramjas college today. Umar Khalid is, by a considerable margin, an under-qualified speaker to address an audience primarily consisting of impressionable students.
He hasn’t been elected to any student office or post, even his history of engaging in protests has been questionable and is limited to a single, small campus. His last year’s arrest under sedition charges passes off as his only qualification for being a protester, which was as unexpected to him as it was to us.
He is the ideological encroachment of university sphere we all pretend to be concerned about.The left student organisations who were so passionately advocating for his invite today, answer this, would you be open to addressed by a speaker who reveres Babu Bajrangi? I believe the answer is a resounding, NO. Then, how is it appropriate to have someone who reveres Burhan Wani, an Islamic fundamentalist with violent tendencies.
Last year, Delhi University organised a seminar on ‘Ram Mandir’, it didn’t go down well with the left student organisations, which violently protested to it being organised. To summarise their argument against such a seminar being organised was, ‘It is an attempt to saffronize the campus’. Very well, then the idea of Umar Khalid being invited to address an audience is an attempt to paint the campus red. He was a member of Democratic Student’s Union, an Ultra-left student’s organisation (which itself lacks legitimacy) and a self-proclaimed communist. A more visible ideological bias can’t be there. If left abhors saffronisation of campus, then it shouldn’t treat it as it’s ideological battleground on all other occasions.
Summing up, keeping the visible hypocrisy, the lack of credential and the regressive aside, I would still defend Khalid’s right to speak. I would want the other side of the spectrum to have a counter-seminar rather than a disrupting protest. lastly, the university space needs to have a dynamic platform of engagement where two conflicting ideological groups engage each other in a debate, the current pattern of huddling up of personalities of same ideological persuasions is regressive and dictative.

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