From midnight arrests to talk of “systemic crisis” and “kangaroo courts”, one would think a revolution is brewing — when all that has happened in the Film and Technology Institute of India (FTII) is a bunch of students striking against the choice of who should head their institute.

After their arrest and the outrage that followed, the next step in the crushing setdown being delivered to the “unruly” students is a lockdown of the campus.

It is clear is the Government will not brook any argument or admit that they have made a mistake with the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, a nonentity who counts B Grade Bollywood offerings such as Khuli Khirki , Jungle Love and Rupa Rani Ramkali as part of his achievements.

What is also clear is that the dissenting students will be treated with the same highhandedness as the agitating Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha. While it’s not fair to compare Congress’ political strategy with a students’ strike, the similarity lies in the government’s treatment of dissent. More dangerous is the tendency in the present establishment to view any criticism or dissent as enemy action that needs to be crushed.

In Sushma Swaraj’s case, all one has heard so far are counter-arguments and chants of how the Congress, being a metaphor for corruption in high places, has no right to hold the present Government accountable. In the students’ case, there is a barrage of information about their unruly conduct and indiscipline in the campus. But how does that take away from the basic issue — that Gajendra Chauhan is a patently unsuitable candidate for the top job in a prestigious national institute? Or that Sushma Swaraj facilitated the grant of travel papers for a man who had engaged her husband and daughter as his lawyers? Who is eventually accountable if there is a lockdown at FTII or a whole session of Parliament is washed away?

Isn’t it time that every dissenting voice is not treated as an enemy of the State?

Political Editor