#StandwithJNU: Solidarity Statement from the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia

We, graduate students and faculty at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and the broader University of British Columbia community stand in absolute and resounding support of the students, faculty, staff and allies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the political and legal clout being exercised by the Indian government in Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest and subsequent reaction to protests. Not only is Kanhaiya’s arrest erroneous and suspect to begin with, the consequent unraveling of systematic hatred towards these “anti-national” scholars creates an environment where anyone perceived to be against ‘Hindu’-hence-Indian culture is at risk of personal harm meted out by the State.

It is deeply disturbing to note public debate around this on mainstream Indian media and TV news channels. The contention is that universities should not be spaces of political engagement, but of quiet scholarly repose.  As students and researchers committed to the principles of transnational social justice, it is distressing to note this attempt to depoliticize the university space by dismissing students as undeserving of their spot for being actively engaged in the future of their country.

To term universities and institutions that foster alternative spaces of being and thinking ‘anti-national’ is commandeering an invective that is untrue and wholly vicious.  Moreover, the violence meted out to Kanhaiya as well as journalists at Patiala Court is horrifying, especially noting Delhi police’s inaction and complicity in this, despite tight presence. It is precisely this sort of unprovoked violence by the State apparatus that is undemocratic. It is baffling to note the Delhi police’s apparent inability to track down the people who attacked Kanhaiya, while at the same time it launches a now country-wide witch hunt for another JNU student leader Umar Khalid (who allegedly organized the protest in question), based on completely false Islamophobic allegations.

We believe that universities are sites of active engagement, and using an old colonial remnant that is the sedition charge betrays intent to suppress the voice of a democracy. To hold debates and discussions is not anti-national, even more so when there is overwhelming testimony that Kanhaiya Kumar was not involved in the particular sloganeering for which he was arrested. An active and thriving student body presence is what makes JNU one of Asia’s premiere institutions. It is deeply disappointing to note the efforts by the current government to clamp down on this. It is with rising alarm that we register the chain of events that connect other established institutions like the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

These threats to academic freedom and the right to dissent are not contained to national borders. They affect us all globally. In JNU we see ourselves. To our fellow students, faculty and staff at JNU: we commend you for your courage in this struggle. India stands at a pivotal moment right now. May we never tire of fighting the good fight. We #StandwithJNU.

February 19, 2016.

In solidarity,

  • Shruti Buddhavarapu, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Noal Amir, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Kristi Carey, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Iman Baobeid, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Dina Al-Kassim, Associate Professor, English Department and Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Renisa Mawani, Associate Professor, Sociology
  • Jen Sung, Communications staff, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Sanjeev Routray, Sessional Lecturer, Department of Sociology
  • Prajna Rao, PhD student, School of Community and Regional planning
  • Leah Grantham, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Thomas Kemple, Professor, Sociology
  • Magnolia Pauker, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Tanvi Sirari, Graduate Student, Sociology
  • Sara Shneiderman, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Institute of Asian Research
  • Madeleine Reddon, Graduate Student, English Department
  • Sunera Thobani, Associate Professor, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Janice Stewart, Senior Instructor, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • John Paul Catungal, Instructor I, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Rima Wilkes, Professor, Sociology
  • Victoria James, Graduate Student, SLAIS
  • Conor Wilkinson, Graduate Student, History
  • Sydnie Koch, Graduate Student, Civil Engineering
  • Mark Adams, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering
  • Sampath Satti, Graduate Student, Biomedical Engineering
  • Hanna Dahlström, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • Denise Ferreira da Silva, Associate Professor, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
  • J. Lowik, Graduate Student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice

 

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