Students are the "most idealistic" bunch in a country and stifling their voice can spell the "death of democracy", says filmmaker Kabir Khan, who is disturbed by the violent attack in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.
On Sunday, a mob of masked young people stormed JNU campus in south Delhi and systematically targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods, hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings.
This comes close on the heels of police crackdown on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University in December over their protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
When asked whether there was an atmosphere where dissent was being silenced, Kabir said, "They've tried to silence (but) have still not managed."
In an interview with PTI, the filmmaker, whose father Rasheeduddin Khan was one of the founding members of the JNU, said such attacks on universities were "extremely disturbing."
"The reason why I decided to speak up and felt really pained was when I saw the students of Jamia walking with their hands up, protests being stifled. I felt that it cannot happen. You can have all kinds of debates, but you cannot not allow students to protest. If you do that, it's the death of a democracy," the director, an alumnus of Jamia and Delhi University, said.
Kabir, who has made acclaimed films like "New York", "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" with political backdrops, said one needs to engage with students rather than silence their voice.
"With age, we all tend to become a little corrupt, indifferent and apolitical but students are very idealistic. If you don't allow students to stand up and say that there is something wrong with the country then... If you feel they're wrong or why are they protesting? Speak to them, debate.
"But you can't unleash the police and the power of the State on them. You can't pull them out of their libraries, classes and beat them up. That's bizarre, terrible. If you come down heavily on your students, you're destroying the future of your own country."
When asked why was the State scared of its students, Kabir said the State is aware that they are a powerful part of the civil society.
"They know, if there's solidarity among students, it can spread like wildfire. Maybe that's what they're afraid of because it's already happening. You push one university down, another one is popping up.
"When JNU was attacked, the students in Mumbai came together and protested, students of Jamia came out at ITO square in Delhi. When Jamia was pushed down, JNU stood up. That is going to happen. How can you not allow students to express dissent? It's their birthright. That's what democracy is all about," he added.
Kabir has directed the upcoming webseries "The Forgotten Army" for Amazon Prime. It will stream from January 24.