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.

Signed,

Yogesh Chandrani
Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Claire Oberon Garcia
Professor, English Department
Director of Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies

Jane H. Murphy
Associate Professor of History

Rashna Singh
Visiting Professor of English

Anusha Kedhar
Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance

Purvi Mehta
Assistant Professor of History

Nadia Guessous
Assistant Professor of Feminist and Gender Studies

Peter Matthews Wright,
Associate Professor of Religion

Naomi Pueo Wood
Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

Amanda Minervini
Visting Assistant Professor of French and Italian

Sarah Hautzinger
Professor of Anthropology & Chair, Department of Anthropology

John Gould
Associate Professor of Political Science

John Williams
Director of Asian Studies & Associate Professor of History

Heidi R. Lewis
Assistant Professor of Feminist & Gender Studies

Devaka Premawardhana
Assistant Professor of Religion

Tomi-Ann Roberts
Professor of Psychology, Chair of the Department of Psychology

Laurel Taylor Sebastian (2016)
Environmental Science

Jamal Ratchford
Assistant Professor of History

Alberto Hernandez-Lemus
Associate Professor of Philosophy

Ruth Markwardt (Alum)
Department of Anthropology, Paraprofessional

Joan E. Ericson
Professor of East Asian Languages

Rachel Mintz (2016)
Senior, Anthropology

Carol Newton (2019)
First Year Student

Sachin Mathur (2017)
Political Science