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”