08-MAR-2019: AMU Literary Festival starts with Siddharth Varadarajan's lecture
Aligarh, March 8: Ramnath Goenka awardee and founding editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan today delivered a special lecture on 'Under Siege: The Media and the Idea of a University' to begin the 'Literary Festival 2019' of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in which literary stalwarts, celebrated writers, poets, columnists and journalists-spanning languages, genres and themes from all over the country have assembled in huge numbers.
Speaking at India's only literary festival solely conducted by students with no corporate sponsors, Varadarajan said: "Today, we see that journalism is in peril because several democratic institutions are also under an organised and systematic attack."
He added, "It has put a question mark on the future of democracy in the country as the right to freedom of speech is under attack. Media is just one reflection."
Varadarajan emphasised that journalists and media houses that hold alternative views are being targeted in an organised and sustained fashion by trolls and even by some bigger media houses.
While he criticised certain TV news channels for peddling propaganda on regular basis, he decried how IT cells of several political parties have weaponised social media against journalists in recent years.
Referring to the instances wherein the Country's top notch entrepreneurs have filed defamation suits against media outlets and journalists, Varadarajan pointed out that when such cases start piling up, the owners and investors of media houses start discouraging such work that invites trouble. "As a result, media houses have abandoned reporting on several issues," Varadarajan noted.
Talking about the brighter side of the social media, he said, "Even though the Wire is very small in financial terms, but many of our stories went viral."
He also warned against the manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms, which has emerged as a critical threat around the world.
"The assaults are not confined to media as our public universities are constantly under the scanner," Varadarajan pointed out.
He added that there is nothing more damaging than attacking academic institutions as universities curate and communicate the best of the past, as well as develop in young minds the abilities which create a nation's future. "Academic institutions not only provide the young people with the skills required by national and global capital but, much more importantly, the nurturing of values, discernment, nuance, creativity, citizenship, a sense of perspective and a love for lifelong learning," said Varadarajan.
He delineated that there is a sustained effort by a section of society infuriated by modernity to aggressively reverse whatever national modernisation has taken place through our universities.
Concluding his address, Varadarajan urged the student community to support independent media in whatever ways they can. He also answered questions from students in a special interactive session.
Prof Syed Sirajuddin Ajmali, Prof F S Sheerani and Dr Mohibul Haque were present on the dais.
Ansab Amir Khan (Secretary, University Debating and Literary Club) conducted the programme.
A panel discussion with Jaishree Misra, Jerry Pinto and Prof Shafey Kidwai as speakers on 'The Relevance of Literary Festivals' and a story telling and recitation session by Prof Syed Asghar Wajahat followed the lecture.
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Aligarh Muslim University
Related PicturesSidharth Vardarajan with Prof F S Sheerani Prof Siraj Ajmali and Dr Mohibul Haque
Prof Syed Asghar Wajahat during the story telling session
Jaishree Misra speaking in a panel discussion at AMU Literary Festival
Jerry Pinto with Jaishree Misra Prof Shafey Kidwai and Alisha Ibkar in a panel discussion