What are ‘India’s internal matters’ exactly? Top scientists question Modi govt’s new webinar rules

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Updated: February 20, 2021 11:50 AM

The new webinar rules also add that no government-aided institute can hold a webinar if it pertains to topics such as India’s borders, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, the situation in the Northeast.

new webinar rules, 2021 webina rules, India webinar rules, Modi govt webinar notice, webinar clearanceEarlier, there was no ban on the range of topics. However, a clearance was required for the speaker’s invite from the government. (Reuters file photo)

India’s top scientists are miffed over the new webinar rules issued by the Narendra Modi government. The fresh rules, which were made issued on January 15, state that clearance is required if any institute wants to hold a virtual conference or a webinar in India. The rules also add that no government-aided institute can hold a webinar if it pertains to topics such as India’s borders, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, the situation in the Northeast. These topics have been termed as ‘India’s internal matters’ and thus can’t be discussed on a virtual platform that may see international participation.

Now, leading scientists from India’s top research institutes have written to the education ministry and asked for the withdrawal of these new webinar rules. According to a report by The Indian Express (IE), the scientists say that such a blanket ban on virtual discussions will not augur well for the researchers in India. The IE report says that The Indian National Academy of Sciences and the Indian Academy of Sciences have written separately to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. In his letter, Indian Academy of Sciences president Partha Majumder reportedly said that while the institute has no doubt that India’s security is of paramount importance and is absolute in nature. However, the tough restrictions simply put a ban on any kind of discussion without defining what are exactly ‘India’s internal matters’. Mujumdar wrote that this prior clearance will hamper the scientific growth in India as it restricts the member from holding a conversation in a free and fair manner.

It should be noted that Russia also has a similar restriction in place. No institute – public or private – can hold a webinar or without Kremlin’s clearance. Now, if these rules stay, it would be difficult for the scientific community or for that matter any other researcher to hold a webinar and invite guest speakers from abroad. Earlier, there was no ban on the range of topics. However, a clearance was required for the speaker’s invite from the government. This was only applicable for the offline, real-world conference.

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