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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#StandWithJNU: Solidarity Statement by Academics in the UK

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the BJP government-sanctioned police action in the JNU campus and the illegal detention of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. We strongly condemn the manner in which political dissent is being stifled, reducing academic spaces to fortresses. We also condemn the widespread witch-hunt of left-wing students and student groups that this police action has unleashed.

These recent acts are representative of the larger trend that we have been observing – the imposition of an authoritarian and regressive agenda in institutions of higher learning from Films and Television Institute [FTII], Hyderabad Central University [HCU] to Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU]. From the institutional murder of HCU student, Rohith Vemula, and the suppression of student protests at FTII to the illegal detention of the student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and pervasive police presence at JNU, there has been a constant non- observance and disregard of administrative and legal norms as well as a gross infringement of the democratic rights of the student community. These actions are embedded in a deeply chauvinistic cultural nationalism, which espouses a casteist and Brahmanical, homophobic, and patriarchal worldview.

We strongly believe that student politics is being targeted currently by giving a new lease of life to a sedition law that was a draconian tool in the hands of the colonial state and has no place in a democracy. It is our democratic right to dissent, disagree, organise and struggle against state, institutions or policies that transgress and suppress democratic and egalitarian values. Expression of dissent cannot and should not be equated with being ‘anti-national’ (or any other such constructed category) and is definitely not punishable under law especially if it is non-violent. Disguising targeted assault on oppositional student groups/political movements within the narrative binaries of nationalism/anti nationalism only reflects how vulnerable the BJP government feels in its own ability to provide accountable governance.

We also believe that institutions of higher learning should be publicly funded spaces for political engagement, debates, and critical discussions – a legacy campuses (be it JNU, DU, or FTII) have embodied. As they always have, university spaces should subsidise costs of education for students, irrespective of the political disposition of the students. A rather disturbing feature of the narratives around this issue has been the construction and furthering of an artificial dichotomy between academics and politics that suggests that being ‘political’ is an aberration. This would certainly appear to be the case, if seen through the neoliberal lens of perceiving education as an industry that produces ‘semester bred’ automated ‘disciplined’ individuals who are mere consumers.

However, as the nonviolent expressions of dissent by students in JNU clearly demonstrate, contrary to this neoliberal view of academia, we believe that ‘personal is political’ and there is no sphere that is devoid of politics. We believe that good academic work necessarily involves a critical engagement with society and its power inequities and in that sense is always politically engaged. This engagement thrives in the democratic space of the university where many dissenting views can be heard and debated. The vilification of JNU as a space of ‘anti-national’ politics is being carried out by ABVP and BJP in order to attack and break this democratic spirit of academic and political life in Indian universities.

As teachers, students, scholars, and academics from the UK, who are keenly observing the developments unfolding in JNU, we express our solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of JNU as they non-violently resist this infringement on their rights. We urge the Vice Chancellor of JNU to uphold the institutional autonomy and the democratic rights of the student community. We also urge the government of India to stop encroaching on our rights as citizens, students, activists, political and politicised subjects.

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Pennsylvania Scholars’ Statement of Solidarity with Student Activists in India

Statement of Solidarity with Student Activists in India from activists and academics in the Pennsylvania region, USA

We, activists and academics in the Pennsylvania region, strongly condemn the attack on academic freedom at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the President of the JNU Students’ Union, on charges of sedition has brought to light the intervention of the Union Government in the internal matters of the university. The repeated interference by police personnel at the behest of Vice Chancellors on university campuses is a draconian move. The charges against students were brought after an event organized by a section of students on campus premises to discuss the judicial execution of Afzal Guru. The JNU Students’ Union was subsequently held responsible for the “anti-national” slogans that were chanted by a group of students. We condemn these trumped-up and unconstitutional charges and stand in solidarity with the efforts to repeal capital punishment in India.

The events unfolding at JNU reveal disturbing similarities with instances of government repression on other campuses. We remember, with distress, the actions of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration in cahoots with the Central Government, actions that led to the death of a promising Ambedkarite student-activist, Rohith Vemula. The protests that arose indicted the discriminatory atmosphere prevailing in our universities as tantamount to the denial of the fundamental right to education to socially marginalized groups. Further, the murder of social thinkers like Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi by hyper-nationalist elements under the tacit encouragement of the policies of the Central Government has shocked all advocates of free speech in India.

The charges of sedition against students participating in democratic discussion of public events is highly objectionable. The stifling of voices through intimidation and muscle power does not bode well for educational institutions.

Debate and dissent are integral parts of a strong democracy. Universities are critical public spaces that support these democratic practices to realize the values of social justice enshrined in the ideals of the constitution. International campuses like JNU, FTII and UoH bring together diverse group of students in the spirit of self-reflexive and deep intellectual engagement to ask fundamental questions of their social realities. An attack on these institutions is an attack on this precious pedagogical space. Student movements in India in alliance with other social movements in the country have historically been a resilient and sensitive force. The BJP government’s efforts to undermine them is nothing but an assault on Indian democracy. The government has failed to protect the rights of student bodies, and the highhandedness of the police highlights the insecurities of the present government.

In the United States during a presidential election year, we watch increasingly bigoted views against blacks, Muslims, and immigrants gaining ground. These events cannot be seen in isolation and we stand at the intersection of socio-political movements in the US and South Asia.

We stand in solidarity with students and faculty of JNU and demand the immediate release of the detained students. We appeal to all advocates for academic freedom in India and abroad to stand united against this state atrocity.
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