For the background to this post, please read this.
Or consider this. A youth magazine runs a standard feature checking out the very tall claims made by an institute that offers high-priced management degrees. The claims don’t check out; the magazine prints its findings. The institute sues the magazine. It sues the magazine’s editor. Vicious and obscene comments pop up on her blog. A set of fake blogs praising the institute appear from nowhere. Another blogger comments on the institute and, substantiating his rhetoric, calls its claims “crap”. He gets sued. Then the institute complains to the organisation he works for about the posts he’s made in his personal capacity; then it threatens that its students will burn the laptops provided by that organisation. Gaurav Sabnis, the blogger in question, decides to quit rather than cause his organisation more grief—or back down on his posts.
This is what IIPM wants.
A ban on any criticism, however valid, of its claims, its facilities, and the worth of the degrees it provides. It doesn’t want students evaluating any of this. It doesn’t want a student magazine evaluating any of this. It doesn’t want bloggers evaluating any of this.
And I’m thinking, for an institute that’s supposed to specialise in management, they haven’t done a very good job, have they?
Because until Bansal was barracked on her blog by a bunch of perverts, until she and JAM had lawsuits chucked at them, until Sabnis was sent legal notices and then forced to choose between his job and his beliefs, the truth is that I didn’t really think much about IIPM or what they stood for or their claims or whether they were any good.
Now I’m very, very interested. And so is DesiPundit, who’s been holding the reins of the campaign for free speech. And India Uncut. And the whole bunch of Indian bloggers named in DesiPundit’s post.
Now we really do want to know what makes IIPM tick. And what makes it think it’s going to get away with using bluster, force and blackmail to shut down the right of every Indian citizen to discuss, dissect and, occasionally, dismiss a public institution.
Gaurav Sabnis didn’t lose his job because he’d done anything wrong. All he did was to call IIPM on its claims and suggest you really might want to look at its claims very hard before you applied for admission or sent your kids there.
He didn’t lose his job because his organisation told him they couldn’t deal with the pressure, even though it was clear that IBM was worried about where this was heading: IIPM’s threats weren’t, shall we say, on the level that constitutes a civilised discussion.
He lost his job because a bully said, I’m going to twist your arm till you take down those posts, because I don’t like what you said, and most of all because I can. And Gaurav’s response was to see to it that IBM didn’t get hurt, and to say, No, you can’t. I won’t let you.
I know how much anger this issue is going to raise. I know that some of our responses are going to be off the wall, I know that it takes considerable restraint to keep the rant nice and pure and invective-free.
But in the end, there are just two things to remember. One is that every citizen of this country has a right to express his opinion, that IIPM is trying to shut down free speech, and that it would be very, very nice if every blogger from India saw to it that we made their job that much harder for them.
And the second is that Gaurav Sabnis is standing up for his principles in one of the hardest ways any of us can. Give him all the support you can provide. IIPM doesn’t just owe him an apology; it owes him his life back.
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