STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH STUDENT ACTIVISTS IN INDIA: University of Pennsylvania & Philadelphia South Asian Collective

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 Student’s 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.

  1. Anannya Bohidar, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  2. Ammel Sharon, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  3. Meghna Chandra, Philadelphia South Asian Collective
  4. Ania Loomba, English, University of Pennsylvania
  5. Projit Mukharji, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
  6. Najnin Islam, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania

  1. Suvir Kaul, English, University of Pennsylvania
  2. Rallapalli Sundaram, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  3. Teren Sevea, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  4. Debjani Bhattacharyya, History, Drexel University
  5. Kasturi Sen, Lawyer for the Defender Association of Philadelphia and Philadelphia South Asian Collective.
  6. Toorjo Ghose, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania
  7. Ishani Dasgupta, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  8. Shampa Chatterjee, Medical School, University of Pennsylvania
  9. Lucas de Lima, Graduate Student, Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  10. Sangeeta Banerji, Graduate Student, Geography, Rutgers University
  11. Sarita Mizin, Graduate Student, English, Lehigh University
  12. Aashish Gupta, Graduate Student, Demography, University of Pennsylvania
  13. Shourjya Deb, Graduate Student, Public Policy and Administration, Rutgers University
  14. Sugra Bibi, University of Pennsylvania
  15. Samira Junaid, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  16. Nandita Chaturvedi, Graduate Student, Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania
  17. Muhammed Malik, with Philadelphia South Asia Collective
  18. Joshua Pien, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  19. Sirus Joseph Libeiro, Graduate Student, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
  20. Sambuddha Chaudhuri, Graduate Student, School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania
  21. Tanushree Bhan, Graduate Student, Public Policy and Public Affairs, University of Massachusetts Boston
  22. Pooja Nayak, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  23. Kaushik Ramu, Graduate Student, Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  24. Darakhshan Khan, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  25. Timothy J. Loftus, Graduate Student, Religion, Temple University
  26. Mercedes Yanora, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  27. Faisal I Chaudhry, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  28. Sudev J Sheth, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  29. Brooke Stanley, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  30. Melissa E. Sanchez, English, University of Pennsylvania
  31. Hao Jun Tam, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  32. David Kazanjian, English, University of Pennsylvania
  33. Aaron Bartels-Swindells, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  34. Manjita Mukharji, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  35. Diksha Dhar, Graduate Student, Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Scholar (visiting), University of Pennsylvania.
  36. Faranak Miraftab, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  37. Timothy Lorndale, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  38. Brittany Puller, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  39. Philip Friedrich, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  40. Dave Kussell, Undergraduate, Economic History, University of Pennsylvania.
  41. Jared Weinstein, Undergraduate, Math, University of Pennsylvania.
  42. Pushkar Sohoni, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  43. Akshay Walia, Graduate Student, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania.
  44. Lavanya Nott, Philadelphia South Asia Collective.
  45. Leopold Eisenlohr, Graduate Student, Chinese, University of Pennsylvania.
  46. Evelyn Soto, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  47. Johanna Greeson, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  48. Julia Chatterjee, Undergraduate, South Asia Studies, University in Pennsylvania.
  49. Josephine Park, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  50. Priti Narayan, Graduate Student, Geography, Rutgers University.
  51. Monidipa (Mimi) Mondal, Graduate Student, Creative Writing, Rutgers University.
  52. Baishakh Chakrabarti, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  53. Chao Guo, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  54. Ram Cnaan, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  55. Femida Handy, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  56. Ezekiel Dixon-Roman, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  57. Andrea Doyle, Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania.
  58. Sheena Sood, Philadelphia South Asia Collective.
  59. Rovel Sequeira, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  60. Daniel Davies, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  61. David L. Eng, English, University of Pennsylvania
  62. Nancy J. Hirschmann, Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
  63. Kalyan Nadiminti, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  64. James English, Director, Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania
  65. Micah Del Rosario, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania
  66. Chi-Ming Yang, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  67. Jean-Christophe Cloutier, English, University of Pennsylvania
  68. Andrew Lamas, Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  69. Amy Kaplan, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  70. Jed Esty, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  71. Prachi Priyam, Philadelphia South Asia Collective.
  72. Michael Gamer, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  73. Timothy Corrigan, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  74. Paul Saint-Amour, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  75. Monika Bhagat-Kennedy, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania.
  76. Fatima Tassadiq, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
  77. Hariprasad Kowtha, Philadelphia South Asian Collective
  78. Rahul Mukherjee, Cinema Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  79. Eram Alam, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania.
  80. Jazmin Delgado, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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