The Indian Union Debate Forum had to change the topic for one of the two debates it is organizing on Saturday, after a politician they invited to speak, a member of the BJP but not of Parliament, accused them of “inciting anti-India sentiment.” Another, also from the Hindu Right, wondered if they were “being funded by ISI.”

The IUDF — founded and run by students of the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi, Kerala — changed the topic from “This house will declare Kashmir an independent state” to “This house will abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution of India.” The second motion for their maiden event is “This house will establish the NJAC, abolishing the Collegium system.” The participants will include BJP’s Subramanian Swamy and Congress’ Manish Tewari and, likely, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani though he was yet to confirm on Friday evening.

A letter to the participants says, “Unfortunately, due to the prevailing political climate, we were strongly advised that it would be in the best interests of the organisation and the speakers, particularly in terms of security at the event, if the original motion on liberation was suspended. However, in order to retain a part of the original idea, if not in entirety, we have re-worded it as above.”

“We changed the topic last week,” says one of the organisers, a third-year law student, “Delhi is not our home ground, we didn’t want to risk it.” They set up IUDF in August this year to organize debated on the Oxford Union and Cambridge Union pattern. “The first debate was on the self-determination of Kashmmir but we were advised that it is too controversial a topic and that the matter is even more sensitive due to the rising intolerance.”

They came to this conclusion after they approached political party-members requesting their participation. “Some people — including a member of the BJP but not an MP— said we are trying to incite anti-India sentiments. Another, who isn’t even a member but associated with them said they doubted the objective of the organisation, that it’s surely not an independent organisation and must have received funding from ISI. They wanted to know why we must even debate the issue of independence for Kashmir. After that we were advised not to have this motion at all,” says the student.


By Adam