International Scholars Condemn the Attack on Faculty and Students of Central University of Haryana

Over 70 UK and Europe-based scholars concerned with South Asia have written a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Haryana. They have condemned the September 21, 2016 attack on a group of staff and students of CUH who were involved in putting together a performance based on the award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi’s acclaimed short story “Draupadi”. The attack and threats of charges of sedition against those involved in the performance were instigated by the BJP-affiliated student group ABVP as well as by the local press, which has falsely and maliciously spread the view that the play is anti-national and represented an attack on Indian soldiers. The letter appeals to the Vice Chancellor of CUH to protect the freedom of expression of the university’s staff and students, and to encourage the democratic exchange of ideas through means of debate and discussion.

 

Dear Vice-Chancellor Mahendra Pal Singh,

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the attack on faculty members and students of the Department of English and Foreign Literatures at your university by members of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for the performance of a play on 21 September 2016. The play was based on a short story by the eminent Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi. We understand that the staff and students involved in the performance had sought and received all necessary permissions for the event, which was organized to commemorate the literary achievements of Mahasweta Devi, the recipient of some of the most prestigious Indian and international awards.

We write to express our serious concern over this attack on the freedom of academic expression of the staff and students at your university. Mahasweta Devi’s story “Draupadi” was written in 1971 and represents her creative expression of the exploitation of India’s tribals.  It is regularly taught as part of course syllabi all over India and the world, including at the universities of some of the signatories to this letter. The claim by the ABVP and the local press that the play is an attack on Indian soldiers is manifestly fabricated. As one of the faculty members involved in the production, Dr Snehsata, has explained, students and teachers saw the programme as an academic and creative pursuit and their intention was certainly not to hurt the sentiments of soldiers as the ABVP has claimed: “In this event, I read the epilogue of the play recounting the data about atrocities on tribal people, especially sexual crimes against women by the Indian army. How ordinary soldiers are used by the state as a tool against its own people and how the body, especially the female body, becomes the site of revenge in the hands of Indian soldiers by the same state. All the teachers and students who were present there came up and congratulated us.”

We stand in solidarity with the courageous faculty members and students who performed the play and strongly oppose the sedition charges being brought on them. The university should be a place for the free expression of ideas, and thoughts; it should create space for dialogue and debate, and even disagreement. It is therefore further regrettable that the university caved in to political pressure and has instituted an inquiry into a matter that it had previously approved.

We appeal to you and other involved authorities to stand in support of your members of faculty and students who are courageously promoting the importance of literature and art in education.

You may contact us on the following email addresses:

Rashmi.Varma@warwick.ac.uk

rkalpana_w@yahoo.co.uk

Thank you for your attention,

Signed:

Dr. Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick

Dr. Kalpana Wilson, Birkbeck, University of London

Dr. Subir Sinha, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London

Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS, University of London

Professor Nadje Al-Ali, SOAS, University of London

Professor Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster

Dr. Sundari Anitha, University of Lincoln

Professor Gautam Appa, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Jairus Banaji, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Murad Banaji, University of Middlesex

Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Gurminder Bhambra, University of Warwick

Dr. Brenna Bhandar, SOAS, University of London

Professor Chetan Bhatt, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London

Sourit Bhattacharya, PhD candidate, University of Warwick

Dr. Angela Chiu, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Rohit Dasgupta, University of Loughborough

Dr. Sukhwant Dhaliwal

Dr. Meena Dhanda, University of Wolverhampton

Professor Stephen Dodd, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Lee Edwards, University of Leeds

Professor Bashabi Fraser, Edinburgh Napier University

Ken Fero, Coventry University

Dr. Radhika Govinda, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Hugo Gorringe, University of Edinburgh

Professor Bishnupriya Gupta, University of Warwick

Chris Gutkind, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Vanja Hamzic, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Christopher Harding, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Adam Hanieh, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Sarah Hodges, University of Warwick

Dr. Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, University of London

Professor Patricia Jeffery, University of Edinburgh

Revd. Dr. Anderson H M Jeremiah, Lancaster University

Dr. Virinder S. Kalra, University of Manchester

Dr. Lars Laamann, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Florence Libert

Dr. Sumi Madhok, London School of Economics and Political Science

Dr. Caspar Melville, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Alessandra Mezzadri, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Satoshi Miyamura, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee, University of Durham

Maggie Morrison, PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh

Professor Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick

Nithya Natarajan. PhD candidate, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Eleanor Newbigin, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Kerem Nisancioglu, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Paolo Novak, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick

Dr. Sharri Plonski, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Tim Pringle, SOAS, University of London

Dr Navtej Purewal, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Amit Rai, Queen Mary College, University of London

Professor Shirin Rai, University of Warwick

Dr. Anandi Ramamurthy, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Rahul Rao, SOAS, University of London

Professor Ben Rogaly, University of Sussex

Professor Srirupa Roy, University of Goettingen, Germany

Dr. Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Aditya Sarkar, University of Warwick

Dr. Eurig Scandrett, Queen Margaret University

Dr. Alpa Shah, London School of Economics

Dr. Amrita Shodhan, SOAS, London

Professor Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University

Shreya Sinha, PhD candidate, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Shruti Sinha, Toulouse School of Economics, France

Dr. Harriet Tarlo, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Shabnam Tejani, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Isabelle van der Bom, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Leandro Vergara-Camus, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Amina Yaquin, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Richard Whitecross, Edinburgh Napier University

Contacts:

Dr. Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick

Rashmi.Varma@warwick.ac.uk

Dr. Kalpana Wilson, Birkbeck College, University of London

rkalpana_w@yahoo.co.uk

Dr. Subir Sinha, SOAS, University of London

Ss61@soas.ac.uk

 

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