St Louis Universities Stand With JNU: A Statement

 

Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) in New Delhi, India, was arrested on Feb 10 on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Kanhaiya was present at a meeting on the evening of Feb 9, where incendiary slogans were allegedly raised. Seven other students were also charged. Mr. Kumar is not accused of raising the slogans; indeed the identity of the person(s) who raised the slogans remains a mystery. Charging a student leader for sedition for another’s mere sloganeering is prima facie absurd. Further, the assault of Mr. Kumar, other students and faculty, and even journalists, in court premises by lawyers and others sympathetic to the government, do not inspire confidence in a fair judicial process.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), one of India’s elite universities, is known for fostering critical thinking and vigorous debates. Many of India’s finest academics are JNU alumni. We, the undersigned members of the St. Louis area academic community, hold that universities should be safe and inclusive spaces for the open and vigorous discussion of ideas, not mere echo chambers of the government in power. Mr. Kumar’s arrest has to be seen as an assault on that universal academic ethos.  In this regard, we note with concern that the incidents at JNU come close on the heels of the expulsion of five Dalit students at the Hyderabad Central University for expressing dissenting political views, and the tragic suicide of one of the expelled students Rohith Vemula.

It is distressing to us that the JNU vice-chancellor chose to escalate the situation by consenting to police action instead of resolving what is by all accounts, a simple university administrative matter, through internal review. We therefore support the calls from JNUSU and the JNU Teachers Association to:

1)   Drop all charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy against all of the students

2)   Constitute an independent internal review committee at JNU

Sincerely,

Alexandra Barrett Undergraduate Washington University in St. Louis Environmental earth science
Anjali Vishwanath Undergraduate Washington University International and Area Studies
Bret Gustafson Associate Professor of Anthropology Washington University in St. Louis Anthropology
DebaratiBasu Postdoc Washington University Plant Biology
Denis English

Research Technician

Washington University
Elayna Levin Undergraduate Washington University in St. Louis Psychology-Neuroscience-Philosophy
Jesse Huang Undergraduate Washington University Computer Science
Krishna Melnattur Staff Scientist Washington University School of Medicine Neuroscience
Michael Nonet Associate Professor Washington University Med School St Louis, MO USA Dept of Neuroscience
Molly Metzger Assistant Professor Washington University in St. Louis Social Work
Natalie Martinez Undergraduate Student Washington University in St. Louis Film & Media Studies
Paul Taghert Professor of Neuroscience Washington University Medical School Neuroscience
Rinaldo D’Souza Postdoc Washington University Neuroscience
Sandra Tamari Assistant Director Southern Illinois University Edwardsville International Affairs
Shefali Chandra Associate Professor Washington University in St. Louis
Sminu Sudhakaran Washington university in St. Louis Architecture/urban design
Stephanie Aria undergraduate Washington University in St. Louis
Yash Dalal Undergraduate Washington University in St. Louis Computer Science
Zarion Marshall Undergraduate Washington University in St. Louis Philosophy – Neuroscience – Psychology
Zunaira Komal Washington University in St. Louis Psychology

 

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