University of Virginia’s Statement of Solidarity for JNU

We, the undersigned students and faculty at the University of Virginia, stand in solidarity with the staff, students, and faculty at Jawarharlal University (JNU), New Delhi. We share the outrage of citizens around the world who are aggrieved at the Modi government’s criminalization of student protest and dissent. Further, we are extremely concerned by the government’s cavalier suppression of dissent as ‘sedition’ and ‘anti-national’. Freedom of speech and expression are cornerstones in any democracy. Citizens’ rights to express a plurality of beliefs and contrary opinions are essential to enabling a free, tolerant, and just society. We thus condemn the arrest, detention, and prosecution of students, including Kanhaiya Kumar (President of JNU Students Union), who have exercised this fundamental right on the JNU campus.

We also condemn the state’s wanton use of police and legal powers to subdue the rights of students to gather peaceably and debate their political beliefs. We are concerned that the persecution of students at JNU is galvanized by the state’s general repression of minorities, most notably evidenced in the tragic suicide of the Dalit student Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad and the controversial execution of Afzal Guru. We value the resilience of the members of the JNU community who are now in the midst of the struggle. We also recognize the ties between the crackdown at JNU and other similar virulent state actions against some of India’s most excellent institutions of higher education: Jadavpur University, Kolkata; the University of Hyderabad; Film and Television Institute of India; and others. JNU’s preeminent reputation in India as an institution that fosters path-breaking scholarship, social activism, and critical thought is truly global. It is our hope that this statement of solidarity, by reaching across boundaries, affirms the exalted regard with which JNU is held in the international community of scholars.

In order to ensure that JNU can carry on with its educational mission, we urge the Government of India to remedy the situation immediately. To this end, we ask that the students arrested under false charges of ‘sedition’ be released immediately, that all charges against them be dropped, and that police incursions into campus activities cease. We call on the Vice Chancellor of JNU to uphold the university’s global reputation for safeguarding free and independent thought by protecting its most vulnerable members and students.

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia aspires to extend universally the rights of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imagined by its founder. Even so, UVA continues to face its own struggles against discrimination based on race, class, religion, gender, and sex. It is in the name of these struggles on our own historic Grounds that members of this university find it urgent to speak out in solidarity with JNU and against the suppression of minority voices in India.
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Statement of Support with JNU from Colorado College

We, the undersigned at Colorado College, are writing to express our solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the BJP government for ordering the police to suppress peaceful expressions of dissent by JNU students and for arresting the JNU Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar on false charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Furthermore, we condemn the investigation of Umar Khalid and five other students in order to file similar charges. We believe that the charges against Mr. Kumar and the others are fraudulent and demand that they be dropped immediately. We also demand that the police withdraw from the university campus and desist from filing false charges against the other students.

It is apparent to us that the arrest of Mr. Kumar and the police actions on the JNU campus, including constant surveillance by plainclothes officers, are part of a broader campaign by the ruling party and organizations affiliated with it to take control of India’s public universities in order to suppress critical thought and political dissent on campuses all over India. Prior to the events at JNU, the government had suppressed student protests at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and put pressure on the university administration at Hyderabad Central University to expel Mr. Rohit Vermula, a talented and thoughtful PhD scholar who was also active in the Ambedkar Students Association. As a result, Mr. Vermula committed suicide. Over the past week, student residences at JNU have been raided by the police and various student groups have been placed under surveillance. In addition to police violence, faculty and students of JNU have been subjected to a vicious campaign of slander and prejudice by the mass media. JNU students and faculty who had gone to attend Mr. Kumar’s hearing at the High Court were physically assaulted by lawyers and other individuals associated with the ruling party. From all accounts, the attacks were carried out with the connivance of the police. We not only condemn these attacks, we also demand that the Delhi police should withdraw from the JNU campus and that the Indian government desist from its campaign of harassment of students, faculty and staff at universities throughout the country.

Based on the accounts that we have read, it is clear that the legal case against Mr. Kumar is false and that the colonial era law of sedition is being used to silence students who are critical of the Hindu nationalist government and its idea of India as a Hindu nation. Indeed, we believe the use of the sedition law and the deployment of state machinery to suppress political dissent on university campuses and elsewhere in India is designed to normalize the ruling party’s commitment to Hindu majoritarianism. In other words, we believe that these actions by the government are but one part of a larger project to undermine the Indian Constitution’s commitment to equality and freedom.

As scholars and students, we believe that the right to freedom of speech and assembly and to dissent are essential to the pursuit of knowledge and contribute to a flourishing democracy and to a more just and equal society. Indeed, the JNU community and students and faculty of other Indian universities who have peacefully assembled and protested in solidarity embody the very qualities of citizenship that are essential to a vibrant democracy like India’s. We stand by the students and faculty who have been unjustly targeted in this vicious campaign against academic freedom and against their right to critically engage with problems of inequality and injustice in India and to protest against the Indian government’s policies. In this spirit, we urge the Vice Chancellor of JNU to support the students by keeping the police out of the campus and we demand that the government cease its campaign against the students.
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Statement of Solidarity from members of Cornell University in support of the JNU students’ movement

We, the undersigned members of Cornell University strongly condemn the arbitrary, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic actions which have been taken against the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India. We demand an immediate end to all police action on campus, a withdrawal of all frivolous charges against the President of the JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, and an end to the campaign of harassment and intimidation against students at the university.

That Kanhaiya Kumar is being held on account of sedition, a product of an archaic and colonial-era law (IPC 124A), is shocking and abhorrent. The existence and validity of this law in India has been called into question time and again. This incident reinforces the need to reconsider its continued existence in the Indian constitution.

The agenda of the present Indian government to create a homogeneous discourse of nationalism that privileges an upper caste, Hindu, male worldview is particularly worrisome. There has been a pattern of marginalization and suppression of minority views and dissent. The deliberate targeting of Umar Khalid, and other students as ‘anti-national Muslim terrorists’ is in keeping with the agenda of the state to create and fight false enemies. This is a dangerous trend and completely antithetical to the democratic and secular ethos that India stands for.

There has been an attempt to brand all students and faculty of JNU as anti-national. This is creating an environment of terror. People are getting arrested and beaten because they look like JNU students, and there is continuous presence of a violent mob at the JNU gates. There have been violent attacks on JNU faculty, reporters, and Kanhaiya Kumar inside the Patiala House court complex, not once but twice, with the police standing by as silent spectators. In addition, the sexual harassment of women protesters (both students and faculty) is repugnant and highly condemnable.

We believe that universities are places of debate, discussion, and dissent for people belonging to various backgrounds and ideologies. This attack on the students of JNU is an attempt to stop any kind of political discourse and discussion in university campuses and among students in India. This is in line with a pattern of state repression that has been visible in other Indian campuses like the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), University of Hyderabad, and most recently in Jadavpur University. We stand in solidarity with the ongoing students’ movement in JNU to protect campus democracy, autonomy, and the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. We admire the teacher-student solidarity in JNU in the the wake of these protests, and are inspired by it. We extend our wholehearted support to this struggle against state repression in academic spaces.  Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity from members of Cornell University in support of the JNU students’ movement”

In Solidarity With The Dissenting Student Community In India: A Statement From Australia

As academics, students, writers, artists and activists from Australia, we condemn the use of oppressive power by the Indian state, its police, and Hindu fundamentalist groups to shut down voices of dissent emerging from within public universities in India.

We join the international community in extending our support to the students, faculty and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and many other public universities, who have been courageously protesting the overreach of state power and brutal stifling of dissent, carried out in the guise of majoritarian Hindu nationalism (Hindutva).

Students at JNU and HCU have been targeted for opposing the death penalty awarded to Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon, convicted for “terrorism” by the Supreme Court of India. Students’ opposition to the death penalty – an act of violence carried out by the state to assert its sovereign might – has been manipulated by the state, university administrators, and irresponsible media reports, to be understood as their support for “terrorists”, and thus considered treasonous. The labelling of student activists as “anti-national” by invoking the draconian law on sedition (a legacy of British colonial rule), is a blatant attack on academic freedom. These attacks have been orchestrated by the BJP regime to strike fear among citizens who question its practices of anti-minority religious hate mongering and xenophobic propaganda. HCU student Rohith Vemula was suspended and driven to suicide because of the way the university administration and the state intimidated and threatened him. These attacks on students and free speech are not aberrations or sudden spurts of violence. Rather, they are part of a pattern of attacks on every idea and expression that does not pander to fascist Hindutva ideology.

We deplore the attack on journalists, students, academics and activists by the lawyers at the Patiala House Court premises. The silence and inaction of the police in controlling this situation only testify to the state’s complicity in these events. We are appalled by the jingoistic and prejudiced reporting by some media channels to vilify JNU student activists Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid.

We endorse the demands made by the protesting students, staff and faculty at JNU and HCU. We demand: a) the immediate release of the Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU Student Union, and Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya; b) that the Bar Council of India enquiry into the attacks on journalists and protestors in Patiala House Court be carried out without political manipulation; c) that there should be no further intimidation and arrests of student activists for carrying out peaceful protests; d) the government must preserve the autonomy of universities and de-militarise campuses.

We acknowledge that our solidarity is being extended from territory occupied by a settler colonial state. We also acknowledge that the Indigenous peoples who have not ceded their sovereignty, own this land. This acknowledgement is a necessary precondition for building transnational solidarity against governments – like those in India and Australia – that use democracy and national security as alibis for legitimising their everyday violence.  Continue reading “In Solidarity With The Dissenting Student Community In India: A Statement From Australia”

Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community of New York University, New York

We, the signatories to this statement, stand in solidarity with the student and faculty protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Student liberties, as well as the right to free speech protected in the Indian Constitution, were irreparably damaged by the State-sanctioned police action on the JNU campus, and the unjustified arrest of the student union President, Kanhaiya Kumar on the grounds of sedition. This is a grave charge reserved only for the active incitement of organised violence against the State, and one that was entirely inappropriate in the present circumstances.

We condemn the rhetoric of hate that has labeled protesting students as “anti-national”, “parasites on public money” and “terrorists”. We believe that the State has been unwilling to accept dissent through dialogue and open discussion on issues that it has been unsuccessful and irresolute in handling with justice and dignity. We see the attack on JNU to be an integral part of the larger processes — both implicitly and now explicitly facilitated by the government — of threatening and attacking university campuses across the country, and attempting to establish an intolerant, casteist, and fundamentalist regime which brooks no debate nor dissent. The institutional harassment and death of the Dalit PhD Scholar, Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad, the violent attacks on the students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, Baroda and Jadavpur University, Kolkata (to name a few) have all been indicative of the rising intolerance for any kind of dissent against the Right-wing, Hindu fundamentalist government.

We are deeply disturbed at the opportunistic subversion of the judicial process following the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, by the physical attacks on students and journalists conducted by lawyers, and by the public discourse surrounding the incident especially in certain television news channels and social media. The mass bloodlust present in the communal rhetoric against student leaders like Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid is shameful and erodes any semblance of progress that any civilised society should aim for. It is alarming how any efforts at changing how things work that do not emerge from within the government or its allies, is treated with suspicion and rendered illegitimate. As students, teachers and civil society members committed to ideas of social justice, we condemn the use of archaic laws that threaten the democratic space that universities must offer.

Recognising what is happening in India is not arising out of a socio-political vacuum, but is finding resonances all over the world, we oppose the growing intolerance for student liberties and stand against the systematic State-orchestrated persecution of free thinking students and their allies.

We, the students, faculty and members of the larger NYU community, stand by fellow students and colleagues at JNU in this immediate struggle and promise solidarity in the larger struggle against injustice and intolerance, and in upholding the ideals of a true democracy. Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community of New York University, New York”

Statement of Solidarity with JNU from members of Yale University

We, the undersigned members of Yale University, strongly condemn the recent actions of the Indian Government and the Delhi Police in curbing freedom of speech, violating civil rights and stifling dissent. We condemn the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, on charges of sedition, and condemn the use of this archaic colonial law which has no place in a functioning democracy. We condemn the attempt of the State to restrict free speech, particularly on a university campus, and endorse the rights of all Indians to exercise their freedom of speech as protected under the Indian Constitution. Finally, we condemn the continuing inaction of the Delhi police with regard to the assaults on Indian citizens inside the premises of the Patiala House Court. Not only did they stand as mute witnesses while the assaults took place, but they have also failed to move against the perpetrators of the violence, including members of the bar, despite video and audio recordings of the events being in the public domain.

We noted with grief the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad who was accused of being ‘anti-national’ and subsequently ostracised, and the repression of protests led by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India. As lawyers, students and scholars from India, the United States of America and other parts of the world, we stand with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and support their right to an academic environment that is free of violence and enabling of dissent. We endorse the rights of all students and citizens to engage in political action and speech. We urge the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Government of India and the Delhi Police to take steps against those who have perpetrated acts of violence against students, journalists and bystanders in Delhi. We call on them to ensure that Indian citizens may exercise their freedom of speech and their right to disagree and agree with each other, without fear of arrest or assault. Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity with JNU from members of Yale University”

Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community at Columbia University, New York

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the violence unleashed by the BJP, RSS, ABVP, and the Delhi Police within and outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus over the last few days.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of the unfounded, unjust and archaic charges brought against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, and of his release from custody. We are shocked by the inability or unwillingness of the police to shield him from the mob at the Patiala House Court. We demand an end to the presence of the police on campus, and their continued harassment and intimidation of students and teachers.

We further believe that the charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘anti-national activities’ being brought against Umar Khalid and other students (based on claims that they resorted to anti-India slogans and spoke out for Kashmir’s right to self-determination) are more reflective of the failure of the state to respect critiques and engage meaningfully with disagreements, the failure to see its own jingoism, the failure to appreciate the value of robust, diverse and politicized public universities, and the failure to concede that the freedom to speak up, especially against state injustice, is a fundamental right of all Indian ‘nationals’.

We therefore strongly condemn this increasingly prevalent tendency to unleash state- sponsored violence and intimidation techniques on our universities. We see this as connected to a more general culture of intolerance towards any voice that articulates dissent or resistance against the capitalist, casteist and Hindu fundamentalist government, evident most recently in the systematic harassment and tragic death of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad. We are further alarmed by the vicious slander against dissenting JNU students, and the maligning of the university as a whole, on social media and television.

We would like to extend our solidarity with the JNU students in this immediate fight, and express our hopes for a long-term, united movement towards a more just and a truly free society.

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