Free Speech and Academic Freedom in India and in the West

In India, the tradition of free speech could be traced in the Rig Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 16 Mahajanpadas, sermons of the Buddha and the edicts of emperor Ashoka. The free public gatherings and discussions in the universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila in ancient India continued during the medieval period of Akbar and Dara Shikoh which culminated with the enshrining of free speech in the Indian constitution in 1947. The roots of free speech in the West could be found in the Greek texts starting with Homer, Socrates, Plato and Libanius followed by Milton, Mill and Kant and then Bertrand Russell and others in modern times.

The struggle for free expression in social and religious realms in the West is analyzed in the context of democracy while the Freedom of enquiry comes much later. In contrast the Indian tradition of free speech is contextualized in an environment of wide diversity of views that coexisted from the ancient period and can be summarized as freedom of enquiry. A possible philosophical underpinning is also proposed that is grounded in the celebration of diversity that characterises Indian thought.

Shailendra Raj Mehta is the President and Director of MICA where is also Distinguished Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Prior to this, he was, respectively, the Chairman of the Board of Management at Auro University, Vice Chancellor of Ahmedabad University and Visiting Professor of Business Policy at IIM-Ahmedabad.

He taught Economics and Strategic Management at Purdue University for 16 years. He is currently working on an institutional history of the ancient universities in India.

Donald R Davis is Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

Thursday, 27 July 2017
5.30 pm, CSDS Seminar Room