Statement of Solidarity with Student Protests in India : Students of the University of Chicago

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the arbitrary, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic actions of the BJP/RSS/ABVP/Delhi Police continuum at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus. We demand an immediate end to all police action on campus, a withdrawal of all frivolous charges against the President of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, and other students, as well as an end to the campaign of harassment and intimidation against students at the university.

We believe that these actions by the Indian state and its associated groups and institutions are part of a larger campaign to stifle dissenting voices in the country, especially on university campuses which have persistently resisted the capitalist, Brahmanical hegemony of the current government. This was clearly evident in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD student at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) last month. The similarity of the modus operandi in Hyderabad and Delhi is striking: Rohith and his comrades had been accused of ‘anti-national’ activities for their condemnation of the hanging of Yakub Memon, and suspended from their academic positions on these undemocratic grounds. Similar charges have been framed against the students of JNU for organizing an event in solidarity with the struggle of Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination. To make matters murkier, it is now certain that at the event, which also marked the third anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru, the ABVP was involved in raising the controversial slogans that are being cited to justify the sedition charge. We are of the firm opinion that protesting against state violence is a fundamental right that must not become vulnerable to arbitrary violation by governments, police and university administrations.

We believe that the colonial-era laws of sedition — already diluted and read down by the Supreme Court — are an embarrassment to India’s democratic principles. The criminalization of dissent in this case reveals how India’s current political leadership has been unable to respect diversity and guarantee the full legal rights of its people. Its political program imagines the citizen as upper caste, heterosexual, male, Hindu; its economic program necessitates a blind faith in neoliberalism; and its social program continually imagines an enemy – the Muslim, the Dalit, the Left. It is not surprising that a government so debilitated and blinkered by its ideological narrowness has invoked the charge of sedition and sent police forces into the JNU campus, an action reminiscent of the worst years of Emergency.

We are also distressed by views expressed in certain sections of the Indian media regarding the legitimacy of political activism in public universities. This argument claims that since central and state governments subsidize education in public institutions, it is the responsibility of beneficiaries to refrain from critiquing state policies and to solely prioritize their studies. We firmly reject this cost-benefit understanding of education as shallow, apolitical, and deeply reactionary. As the saying goes, ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’. The current administration and sections of the media would prefer students to remain uncritical of the violence of Brahmanism, communalism, and neoliberal capitalism. But the Rohiths of the world will keep lighting a fire and keep burning down bigotry. We believe that both public education and free speech are fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, rights that have been earned through long struggle and rights that we will keep fighting for in India and elsewhere as we face systematic neoliberal onslaughts on dissent and education.

To our friends, colleagues and comrades in JNU, HCU, FTII and elsewhere, we stand with you in your resistance against state sponsored violence, which curbs any form of dissent on the one hand, and on the other, condones hate speech by Hindu nationalists. We believe that scholarship and the concomitant development of our critical faculties should be used in dreaming of and implementing a better, pluralistic and just society.

Sayantan Saha Roy, PhD student, Anthropology

Ahona Panda, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Harini Kumar, PhD student, Anthropology

Tanima, PhD student, Anthropology

Sneha Annavarapu, PhD student, Sociology

Abhishek Bhattacharyya, Phd Student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Anthropology

Tejas Parasher, PhD student, Political Science

Jenisha Borah, PhD student, Cinema and Media Studies.

Suchismita Das, PhD student, Anthropology

Vidura Jang Bahadur, MFA student, Visual Art

Mannat Johal, PhD student, Anthropology

Shefali Jha, PhD student, Anthropology

Sanjukta Poddar, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Aditi Das, PhD student, Social Service Administration

Joya John, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Marc Kelly, PhD student, Anthropology

Eleonore Rimbault, PhD student, Anthropology

Eric Powell, PhD student, English

Patrick Lewis, PhD student, Anthropology

Romit Chakraborty, PhD student, Chemistry

Gautham Reddy, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Amanda Shubert, PhD student, English

Peter McDonald, PhD student, English

Hannah Chazin, PhD student, Anthropology

Jahnabi Barooah, PhD student, Divinity

Margherita Trento, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Peter Malonis, PhD student, Neuroscience

Zoya Sameen, PhD student, History

Sharvari Sastry, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Andrew Messamore, MA student, Social Sciences Division

Thomas Newbold, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Eduardo L. Acosta, PhD student, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Uday Jain, PhD student, Committee on Social Thought

5 thoughts on “Statement of Solidarity with Student Protests in India : Students of the University of Chicago

  1. This is Modi’s politics! Creating a slogan and projecting himself as I AM THE GOD! This is what the Indian upper caste done with Sri Rama and Krishna for ages. Backstabbing the eternity of God is their in-built culture! They cannot handle the economy, so they need bunch of slogans to project their ugliness as the highest good, but they don’t know that something is waiting in the womb of nature to raise its head with the millions volt electromagnetic energy to establish the VASUDAIVA KUTUMBAKAM, the eternal dream of Sri Krishna. Long live Truth!

  2. I am curious to understand how our view on sedition is related to propaganda and maturity of the polity. It appears to me that Pakistan has waged a propaganda war in the valley, and promoted violence and terrorism, and India has certainly had to respond as well. In such an acrimonious atmosphere, where politics is highly influenced by personalities and propaganda, how should the state react to slogans that call for the destruction of a nation.

    I am trying to make a distinction between criticizing the government and calling for the destruction of a nation itself. My goal is to genuinely understand what sort of approach might make sense here.

    1. Only the Sri Krishna’s VASUDAIVA KUTUMBAKAM makes sense here, nothing else!

      THE HISTORY OF TERRORISM

      All over the world, when the business empire of the arms companies declined because of the lack of war after Second World War, they have systematically planned to promote their arms business by generating terrorism in every remote corner of the world. Terrorists are like their paid gangs and even only in the Valley… everywhere in the world they established their international network with the help most corrupt police forces of every government, I mean even the ranked police personals are also getting monthly payment for helping arms companies to promote their business.

      My dear friend, check everything with the help of the THIRD EYE. In the Philosophy of Sankya, he named the third eye as PURUSHA. Sankya represented pluralistic spiritualism, atheistic realism and uncompromising dualism where the root of all the dialects of nature is visible on the surface itself.

      Sri Krishna mentioned Sankhya and Kapilas name in the Bhagavadgita as the greatest of all perfected beings.

      Long live Truth and particularly the spiritual guts of Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar and all the JNU students!

      Rig Veda says, “Truth is simple and easy. Falsehood is devious; it could well be the cause of destruction.”

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