Please find below a collation of statements of solidarity received by Kafila over the past fortnight since the shameful incidents of violence by the ABVP occurred on the 21st and 22nd of February 2017. These are from: Ramjas Alumna, Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association, O.P Jindal Teachers: Students and Durham University Politics and International Relations Society, U.S.A; and students and faculty at the University of Minnesota, U.S.A.
The statements are preceded by a short write-up on what Ramjas College has meant to its alumna, by ANUBHAV PRADHAN.
Nostalgia is made of more than just happiness. It is sulphurous too.
To many who spent three or more years of their life in Ramjas College, visuals of violence in and around it on 21 and 22 February 2017 have been a source of deep, personal shock. The footpath and the areas adjoining the college gate were often sites of lingering conversations between friends, offering moments of respite from studies, tensions accruing from impending exams, or relief to those who had just accomplished a hectic ECA festival and were there catching up their breath or exhaling smoke.
The ABVP struck twice, once attacking the college Seminar Room and then coming back the second day to attack students. In the hundredth year of Ramjas’ establishment, a college founded at a time when protest was an active ideal for most Indians, this singular episode of planned, institutional violence against students and teachers is a grim reminder of the brute silencing of interrogation, peaceful protest, dialogue and dissent being normalised across our colleges and universities, and in our society at large. The audacity with which these perpetrators and their ideologues brand entire institutions and diverse communities of students and academics as anti-national—and therefore fit recipients for their brute censure—also gives the lie to the intellectual and affective bankruptcy of a rapidly emergent cultural orientation premised on simplistic binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, national and anti-national. In a society—and nation—whose ideals are peace, dialogue, and inclusion, these attacks on students and teachers point to the deep ideological rot in the perpetrators’ conception of nation, nationality and nationalism.
As an alumnus of Ramjas College, I cherish the right to self-determination and open debate. I feel outraged that the students’ and faculties’ right to decide what discussion to hold and whom to invite for it within college premises was usurped in this manner. It is disturbing that this violence rippled across the campus as it were, with students being followed, identified and harassed in their personal spaces for having asserted their right to listen to discussions on Bastar and for not bowing down to bodily attacks perpetrated through stones and fisticuffs by members of the ABVP and their affiliates.
Most alumni like me are invested in our respective professions, but the foundations of study and work were laid for us by Ramjas’ teachers and the college’s vibrant culture of extra-curricular instruction. This experience has proved fundamental to our engagement with our immediate workspaces, surroundings, power structures, and our nation. Denying current and future students their right to freely and openly debate issues of their choice in fora of their choice is tantamount to denial of a basic academic right. Threatening and manhandling academicians guided by the spirit of enquiry towards generation of dialogue will prove detrimental to the quality of collegiate education in our nation. We collectively issue the following statement of solidarity with Ramjas’ students and teachers in this moment of crisis:
Statement by Ramjas Alumna
As alumni of Ramjas College we, the undersigned, wish to publicly state on record the following: 1. Ramjas College has for long been characterised by open debate, free thinking, and healthy interrogation of social and cultural norms in the best traditions of the liberal arts and collegiate education. We support all students and faculty of Ramjas College in light of the unprovoked violence unleashed against them by alleged members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Delhi University Students’ Union on 21 and 22 February 2017. 2. We strongly and unequivocally condemn the actions of these organisations and persons threatening the democratic and inclusive spaces of our alma mater. The upward spiral of violence in our colleges and universities in the name of nation and culture is a matter of utmost concern: we are extremely disturbed by the failure of the state and of government functionaries to quell such violence. 3. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ramjas College and its faculty for all that we are today: the scope and space to think and feel freely and fearlessly; to evaluate for ourselves the truths of society and nation; and the constant encouragement to exceed our limitations and excel in pursuit of economic and cultural inclusivity and the right to self-determination for all. 4. Some of us were office bearers and members of the Ramjas College Literary Society, a unique organisation actively committed to nurturing critical thinking amongst students. We feel proud to have been part of this organisation, and vouch our complete support to our teachers and juniors for courageously carrying forward this interrogative tradition in these times of crisis. Colleges and universities need to have the financial, administrative, and intellectual autonomy to be powerhouses of open and untrammelled exchange of ideas. We urge relevant authorities in Ramjas College, the University of Delhi, and the Delhi Police to take strict legal action against those members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Delhi University Students’ Union who have manhandled faculty and students and destroyed public property in the name of nationalism and Indian culture. Signed: 1. Anubhav Pradhan, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 2. Ishaan Mital, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 3. Abhishek Ranjan Datta, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 4. Sonia Wigh, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2010) 5. Kriti Sharma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 6. Sandipon Choudhury, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 7. Rhea Srivastava, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 8. Mihir Vatsa, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012); M.A. English (Batch of 2014) 9. Rohan Panjiar, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2010) 10. Varun Wighmal, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2013) 11. Sanmitra Ghosh, M.A. History (Batch of 2014) 12. Samarth Chandola, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 13. Prashaste Sinha, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 14. Meenakshi Bhattacharya, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 15. Ananya Borgohain, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 16. Manu Pande, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 17. Rahul Mishra, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 18. Nirbhay Bhogal, B.A. (Hons) History (registered 2007) 19. Safwan Amir, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010); General Secretary, Ramjas College Students’ Union (2008-09) 20. Anirban de Munshi, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 21. Geetika Sinha, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 22. Riddhi Sharma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2008) 23. Jyotishman Kalita, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 24. K. Ammu Sanyal, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2010) 25. Apoorva Joshi, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 26. Arpita Sarkar, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 27. Srija Singh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 28. Martand Badoni, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 29. Nairita Ganguli, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 30. Palak Taneja, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 31. Baljeet Kaur, B.Sc. (Hons) Zoology (Batch of 2016) 32. Venus Anand, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 33. Siddharth Upasani, B.A. (Hons) Economics (Batch of 2011) 34. Abhilasha Verma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 35. Ridhi Negi, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 36. Ria Narayanan, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 37. Noel Sengupta, B.Sc. (Hons) Botany (Batch of 2016) 38. Krispa Ningombam, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 39. Eeshaan Tiwary, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2011) 40. Jonathan George, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 41. Rishabh Jain, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 42. Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2008); M.A. English (Batch of 2012) 43. Shyamalima Kalita, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 44. Mayoura Chatta, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 45. Uplaksh Kochhar, B.Com (P) (Batch of 2013) 46. Angshuman Choudhury, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2014) 47. Ramneek Kaur, B.Sc. Life Sciences (Batch of 2014) 48. Avrati Bhatnagar, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 49. Kshitij Mervin Ekka, B.Com (Hons) (Batch of 2015) 50. Abhinav Kakkar, B.Com (Hons) (Batch of 2013) 51. Aasifa Sheikh, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 52. Anchal Kandpal, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 53. Disha Arora, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 54. Daisy Salam, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 55. Shresth Rajawat, B.Sc. (Prog) (Batch of 2013) 56. Tapasya Narang, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 57. Sameer Selvam, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2011) 58. Shiva R. Boro, B.Com (Hons) (Batch of 2010) 59. Shyama Gupta, B.Sc. (Hons) Statistics (Batch of 2014) 60. Bijit Sinha, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 61. Sandeep Kumar Verma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2008) 62. Ratana Sambhav, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 63. Tanushri Upadhyay, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2013) 64. Sankalp Gehlawat, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 65. Anjali Thakur, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 66. Abantica Das, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 67. Rachit Raj, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 68. Kinshu Dang, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 69. Shafique Shahi, B.Com (Hons) (Batch of 2010) 70. Zingjar Vashim, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 71. Ritu Narang 72. Falak Fatima, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 73. Anmol Ahuja, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 74. Aparna Agarwal, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 75. Chitranshu Tiwari, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 76. Antara Rai Chowdhury, B.A. (Hons) Economics (Batch of 2010) 77. Akansha Verma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 78. Abhija Ghosh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2008); M.A. English (Batch of 2010) 79. Siddhartha Pandey, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2008) 80. Aliza Bakht, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 81. Surabhi Goel, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 82. Kaustav Bhattacharya (Batch of 2010) 83. Saumya Jakhmola, B.Sc. (Hons) Mathematics (Batch of 2016) 84. Dhruba Basu, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 85. Keshav Moodliar, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 86. Gopal Verma, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2013) 87. Ajatika Singh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 88. Olimpika Ojha, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 89. Hreedish Kakoty, B.Sc. (Hons) Physics (Batch of 2012) 90. Sunandini Seth, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 91. Rashi Singh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 92. Ridham Gambhir, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 93. Tuman Baruah, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2012) 94. Sania Hashmi, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 95. Avishek Ghosh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2010) 96. Shah Usman, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 97. Visalam Narayanan, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009) 98. Sanchi Budhiraja, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 99. Namra Zahid, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 100. Misha Maitreyi, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2014) 101. Kunal Chauhan, B.A. (Hons) History (Batch of 2016) 102. Sakshi Jacob, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 103. Deepak Chouhan, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 104. Preety Queen Sinam, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 105. Srijan Upadhyay, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 106. Shrishti Chakraborti, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 107. Sakhi Upadhyaya, B.A. (Hons) Economics (Batch of 2016) 108. Pratibha Kumari, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2012) 109. Malvika, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 110. Nisha Jha, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 111. Megha Singh, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 112. Ishan Sharma, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 113. Taniya Moin, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 114. Gurpreet Kaur, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 115. Nikita Sinha, B.Sc. (Hons) Statistics (Batch of 2012) 116. Prerna Chauhan, M.A. English (Batch of 2017) 117. Komal Anand, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 118. Sagar Khemani, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 119. Nandini Nag, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 120. Ankit Bansal, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 121. Varun Sinha, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2012) 122. Vidhi Agarwal, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2013) 123. Muhammed Suhail, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2014) 124. Ipshita Guha, B.A. (Hons) Economics (Batch of 2012) 125. Adeel Ahmed, B.A. (Hons) Political Science (Batch of 2008) 126. Abhijeet Phartiyal, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2009); M.A. English (Batch of 2014) 127. Vibhuti Aggarwal, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 128. Mohd Farhan, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 129. Raja Rabbi Hussain (Batch of 2009) 130. Gaurav Diwedi (Batch of 2009) 131. Taiyaba Ali, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2016) 132. Dharitri Gogoi, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2011) 133. Jyotsana Yadav, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015) 134. Mishika Chauhan, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2014) 135. Antara Vijay, B.A. (Hons) English (Batch of 2015).
Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association
Listening to differing perspectives, debating over complex politico-cultural narratives, and reclaiming faith in dialogue underlies the spirit of education in a democracy. However, these democratic practices and ethos within universities and colleges are under threat. Campuses have become battlegrounds in the contemporary times, where police and policing seem to regularly make their presence felt both literally and ideologically. University campuses are meant to represent and nurture clashes in ideas, but when they are changed into a zone for intolerance and violence to thwart multiplicity in conversations, then they are under siege. What Ramjas College, University of Delhi witnessed on 22nd and 23rd of February was a spectre of this danger, only to become part of the long list of campuses across the country under surveillance as well as risk.
AUDFA expresses condemnation over physical violence meted out towards students and faculty members of University of Delhi, ironically over a seminar titled ‘Cultures of Protest’ organised by the Department of English, Ramjas College. If college and university students and faculty lose their autonomy over deciding the nature, and kind of academic discussions can be held within their premises, then what is being challenged is the creation and construction of a critical thinking citizen. What is more significantly under attack is the very idea of education itself. Education is not only what is learnt inside the classroom and within the syllabus, but also through poetry, poetics and politics even outside the precincts of the classroom; all of which deeply shape one’s consciousness. Unless we protect and preserve the critical space outside of the syllabus, within the University campus, very soon both the content and space for expression of diversity of ideas and dialogue inside the classroom will also be under scrutiny and shrink. At this critical juncture, AUDFA extends it solidarity to groups and individuals undemocratically targeted both in Delhi and outside. It also resolves to keep the spirit of dialogue and dissent strong within AUD.
Gopalji Pradhan Rukmini Sen Arindam Banerjee
Secretary President Treasurer
Students and Faculty of O.P Jundal University
We, the undersigned students and faculty of O.P. Jindal Global University, condemn the recent attacks by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) on students and faculty in Delhi University. We deplore the inaction of the Delhi police, who were present during these attacks. We also condemn the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs who, instead of assuring an investigation stated that, “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech.” We wish to express our solidarity with the members of the DU community who are currently standing up for a university campus free from intimidation by ABVP. The violence occurred on 21st February, the first day of the Ramjas literary society’s and English Department’s two-day seminar ‘Cultures of Protest’. This was an event for which all necessary permissions had been procured, including from the principal. Objecting to one of the participants at this event – JNU student Umar Khalid – ABVP members engaged in acts of vandalism in Ramjas College and also threatened and assaulted those attending the seminar. Khalid had been invited to speak on the war against Adivasis in Bastar, the topic of his PhD thesis. ABVP members engaged in these acts of violence in the name of defending nationalism. The Delhi Police claimed that they were unable to guarantee the safety of the participants in the face of the violence of ABVP. As a result, the college was forced to cancel the rest of the seminar. The following day, ABVP members disrupted a peaceful march by members of the Delhi University community to the Maurice Nagar police station. Once again, ABVP members physically attacked protesters and molested those present, including faculty and members of the media. Some of the protesters were injured and had to be rushed to hospital. It is our firm opinion that this is part of a systematic endeavour on the part of the ABVP to use accusations of ‘anti-nationalism’ to crush opposition to their world-view. If universities are mired in this atmosphere of intimidation, fear and repression, it will be fatal to intellectual inquiry in our society. The Delhi Police, through acts of omission and commission, has abetted these reprehensible developments. By refusing to protect the seminar proceedings on 21st February and allowing ABVP members to engage in violence on 22nd February, the police have offered selective protection of the law: in effect protecting the aggressors. The members of ABVP have received and continue to receive impunity from law enforcement agencies. The Delhi Police falls under the Union Home ministry, and it was dismaying to find its minister of state echoing the ABVP rather than prosecuting them. His statement provides grounds for concern that the investigation into the incident will not be fair. As a university with a substantial presence of students and faculty studying and teaching the law we are disheartened by this complete and blatant disregard for the law by those who are supposed to uphold it. We condemn in harshest terms the failure on the part of these authorities to protect every citizen, regardless of caste, class, gender and especially political inclination. We demand that law enforcement agencies must immediately take cognizance of the numerous violations committed against those participating in the seminar and the protesters. They must commence legal action against those committing these acts of violence. The Delhi University administration must also take immediate disciplinary action against the aggressors. As fellow students and teachers, we admire the courage and resilience displayed by the protesters at Delhi University for refusing to succumb to fear and the threat of violence. We are inspired by this example and see that they are standing up, not merely for their own rights to free thought and expression, but for the rights of us all. It is imperative for all of us to come together at this crucial point of lawlessness to stand together in solidarity. It is important to remind ourselves at this time that neutrality and silence always support the oppressor, never the oppressed. Name Position Vagmi Shaema Student Veer Shetty Student Vibhuti Dikshit Student Avi Srivastava Student Sajal Mendiratta Student Nirmal John Student Aaryaman Trivedi Student Adya R Luthra Student Amala Dasarathi Student Prajwal K Aradhya Student Divyansha Student Krishnesh Student Mansi Sheth Student Sajal Jain Student Ira S Mahajan Student Dhruv yadav Student Shweta Reddy Student Parvaz Student Muskan Tibrewala Student Shivam Yadav student Yashaswini Venkatadri Student Madhusruthi Neelakantan Student Shailza Alumni Sunoj Mysore Student Pragya Saraf Student arjun narang student Rohan Mathew Student Prashant Alai Student Agil Vatchalam Student Namit Chatrath Student Shlok Goel Student Priyasha Goyal Student Kartikeya Jaiswal Student Ridhima Kohli Student Prerna Prakash Student. Anish Vanaik Assistant Prof. Shivakshi Bhattacharya Student Meenakshi Ramkumar Student Diya Mehta Student Tejasvini Puri Student Kavya Kartik Student Sriya Sridhar Student Sarthak sharma Student Sakshi Prem Student Didon Misri Student Isha Malik Student Pranati Pandit Student Rohan Talwar Student Anicham Tamilmani Student Jhuma Sen Assistant Professor Pragya Dahiya Student Raghav Agrawal Student Vidisha Bajaj Student Vaibhav Kulkarni Student Rakshith Student Raja Venkata Krishna Dandamudi student Mohsin Khan Assistant Professor Amrita Senior Research Associate Shikha Mehra Alumni/RA Vedika bakshi Student Tanushri More Student Rohini Sen Assistant Professor Devangana Kuthari Student Vedant Mundra Student Avishek Konar Assistant Prof. Vinod Vyasulu Professor and Vice Dean Rahil Student Bhawna Agarwal Alumni SHWETA RAGHAV Student Sabarish Suresh student Sannoy Das Assistant Professor Sanjay Mukherjee Student Akshay Dalal Student Divykush Singh Student Madhulika Student Rakesh Ankit Asst. Prof. Aditi Tiwari student Sanya Student Meghana Santosh Student Uday Vir Garg Student Pranav kapoor Student Amogh sushilchandra Student Himanshu Malik Student Yuhina Sangha Student Harshita Iyer Student Virangna Student Karan Bhatia Student Aishwarya Mishra Student Avani Tewari Student Ish Maini Student Annanya Mehan Student Satyam Aneja Student Nipun Arora Student Raghu Vinayak Sinha Student Siddhant Bhasin Student/RA Tanushri Agarwal Student Akriti muddaiah Student Sambhav Student Adithyalakshmanan k Student Aiswarya Pinisetti student Mishika Chowdhary Student Upasana Garnaik Assistant Prof. Ekta Janghu Student Srivatsan Q Student/R.A. Aditya Prasad Student Madhur Arora Student Deepanshi Student Anoushka Virk Student Ekssha Kashyap Student DEBLINA DEY SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE SERUPALLY RAJESH M. A Misria Assistant Research Officer Kshitij Dua Student Manasa Ramakrishna Student Ishan Phogat Student Sanjay E Student Dr. Maaz Bin Bilal Assistant Prof. Parul Yadav Student Shivam Ahuja Student Prachi Saraogi Student Anandita Rana Student Krithika Ashok Assistant Professor Dhriti Student Mahak Tanwar Student Soumyadeep Bera Student Tumuluri R Student Vandita Khanna Student Taarika peres student Jaisal Baath Student Mahin Rai Student Alisha Mehta Student Atharva Deshmukh Student Danish MC Student Ridhi Student Deepak Goyal Student Malavika Prasanna Student rajesh student Mohit Yadav Student Dhruv Shekhar Student Akhshat Sharma Student Sarah Sharma Student Rahul Shekhar Student Aishwarya Student Titiksha Mohanty Student Lubhawna Student Diya Rana Student Sandesh garg Student Simran Sharma Student Pallavi Laungani Student Anush Student Akruti Ramachandra Student Sakshi student prachi Dang student Divita Madaan Student Anshul Bajaj Student Ramya Student Romit Sarkar Student Gitanjali Surendran Associate Professor Deepti Narayanan Student Kalyani Menon Student Rajdeep Pakanati Associate Professor Ankita Das Student Shikhar Tyagi Student Anisha Bhattacharjee Student Prerna Saroha Student Upamanyu Student Bhavya jain Student Vyshali Kottam Student Rebika Guineimoi Kipgen Student Shantanu Raj Student Priyanka Sham Bhat Student Jigyasa Singla Student Shreeja Athota Student Ananya Saxena Student Kavana Ramaswamy Assistant Professor Veda Singh Student Tanay Hegde Student Akanksha Student Sukriti Bhagat Student Gokula Krishnan Student Samridh Shastry Student Aditi Khemani Student simran Student Rashmita Sunkara Student Shuchi Purohit Student Arjun Joshi Student Aditya Thyagarajan Student Antrip Bhattacharjee Student Shivani Pegatraju Student Aishwarya Iyer Senior Research Associate Arup K Chatterjee Assistant Professor Himabindu Student Arshiya Chahal Student Rhea Malik Student Aparna Sivaraman Student Palak Sehgal Student Mercy Deborah Research Associate Nicolas de Zamacrozy Assistant Professor Dipika Jain Associate Professor Kshitij Bansal Senior Research Associate Albeena Shakil Assistant Professor.
Fight Back Delhi University: Statement of Solidarity by Durham University Students
Issued March 3rd 2017
We, Durham University’s Politics and International Relations Society, are shaken by the recent violence at Delhi University over freedom of speech in college campuses. This is an issue that transcends borders and hits home with students all over the world. We stand with all those condemning the violence by the right-wing student body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on students and teachers in the university campus and the atrocious rape threats made to Ms. Gurmehar Kaur for leading protests against ABVP’s violence and sexual harassment on social media. We understand that this incident is the latest of the series of violence produced by right-wing student body across national universities in India – This must stop. In our community at Durham University, we understand the importance of discourse and politics, in unifying communities and alienating them. Constructive criticism plays an important role in democracy and universities should be an embracing place for open debates. Today, we are students and if violence at this level due to political dissent is accepted in any way, this may have a detrimental influence on how we conduct politics in the future when some of us will be leading the world. This trend where one responds to disagreement with violence and boycotts towards ideologies and communities, is not one we wish to see for the future of international politics. We must not let politics become a matter of “You’re Wrong, I’m Right – that’s final!”. This mentality will only lead to more violence, and worse even wars. How we respond to events such as these on university level has tremendous implications for the future of the world. We promote a no-tolerance policy for violence as a means of political persuasion and expect the administration at the University of Delhi to embody this value. We stand united in drawing the future of the world. No matter what ideology one has, violence and threats are never justified merely because one wants to win an argument. Therefore, we condemn the actions of ABVP and its hatemongering. University is certainly not a place where everyone agrees, but it IS and should be a place where one can feel safe. We urge everyone to come together to maintain the spirit of freedom of speech and open debates. We also urge the higher officials and education ministry to look into this issue with utmost consideration and act in support of freedom of political dissent and criticism, and fight the voices of violence and hatred with debates and discussions. With warm regards, Durham University Politics and International Relations Society.
University of Minnesota Stands in Solidarity with Delhi University
We, the undersigned at the University of Minnesota, strongly condemn the brutal physical and sexual assault on the students, faculty, scholars, and journalists in a Delhi University college by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This incident is yet another example of the brazen manner in which the BJP is attempting to stifle voices of dissent, suppress critical thinking, and undermine academic freedom in India’s public universities.
On February 21-22 2017, Delhi University’s Ramjas College organized a seminar titled ‘Cultures of Protest’, attended by some of India’s best-known scholars and student activists. The list of seminar presenters included Umar Khalid, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader charged with sedition last February. Members of the ABVP reacted to Khalid’s invite by entering Ramjas college armed with sticks and incendiary slogans. Anticipating violence, organizers of the seminar cancelled Khalid’s presentation. The ABVP, however, accused seminar organizers, presenters, and attendees of indulging in “anti-national” activities and began pelting stones into the seminar hall, shattering its glass windows and injuring many who were present. While the Delhi Police watched in silence, the ABVP activists went on a rampage assaulting students, faculty, and journalists en masse for several hours. Despite openly and publicly committing acts of violence and intimidation, the culprits have not yet been booked.
We denounce this attack on academic freedom and critical speech in the strongest terms. We also denounce police inaction as a clear indication of its sympathy, if not complicity, with perpetrators of violence. We reiterate that the Ramjas college incident is only the latest in a series of attacks on public universities in India since 2014. Faculty and students not aligned with the ruling party and protesting against the clampdown on academic freedom and privatization of education have increasingly been coming under various forms of attack, ranging from bodily violence, and arrests under false charges to suspension from universities.
For example, Najeeb Ahmed, a JNU student went missing after he was assaulted by ABVP students in October 2016. Instead of pursuing a sincere investigation of his disappearance, Najeeb’s family is being harassed by the police. It has been a year since Rohith Vemula, a Doctoral student at the University of Hyderabad (UoH), committed suicide after being hounded by the university authorities for his activism. But rather than acting against the UoH authorities that forced Rohith to take this step, the central government appears more concerned about questioning Rohith’s Dalit identity and discrediting charges of casteism. It is important to note that Rohith’s suicide was not exceptional in the sense that suicides were reported even before and after his death. In fact, in September 2016, a Master’s student also committed suicide. That same month, the Central University of Haryana, Mahendragarh witnessed another instance of violence when a dramatized adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi was disrupted by the ABVP as they saw the text as “anti-national”. In February 2017, JNU professor Nivedita Menon delivered a lecture on nationalism at Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur. Protesting against her allegedly “anti-national” remarks on Kashmir and the Indian Army, the ABVP yet again attacked academic freedoms by calling a day-long strike, suspension of the organizers, and police action against them. Following this, Rajshree Ranawat, key organizer and assistant professor in the English Department, has been suspended.
As we express our solidarity with the struggle against such acts of barefaced violence, we also register our anguish about relatively discreet forms of systemic violence against public universities in India. Budget cuts in the education sector, the University Grants Commission’s move to defund scholarships for research students, its recent move to alter admission policies in ways that would directly limit access to higher education, and the offer of ‘autonomy’ granted to some colleges to effectively break away from Delhi University are instances of recent institutional shifts that threaten to destroy the deeply public character of Indian universities.
In line with neoliberal transformation of public universities across the world, these changes threaten to reverse the positive gains of affirmative action and subsidized public education. As a consequence of such hard-won policies, public universities are witnessing an erosion of upper caste hegemony over higher education in India. Universities are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of social composition and mobilizing their political energies around difficult questions of caste-based inequalities and state violence in different parts of the country. We recognize that recent institutional changes are designed to halt precisely this socio-political churning. They are aimed at making higher education less accessible to underprivileged students and encouraging privatization of education. In the same vein, they are aimed at weeding out a radical political culture committed to social justice and equity in India. Therefore, our condemnation of the on-going attack on academic freedom also extends to such insidious institutional shifts that are being pushed through with renewed vigor.
This systematic attack on public universities is no surprise. After all, it is from these spaces that the boldest and most consistent critique of the current government is emerging. As Nandita Narain, president of Delhi University Teachers’ Association remarked in a “Citizens March to Parliament” in the capital on 4th March 2017, “ideas are the most dangerous things, and universities generate ideas”. In the face of the most recent attack on Delhi University, students and teachers have come together in an admirable show of strength, courage, resilience, and love for their university. We lend our support to the #FightBackDU movement. We stand in solidarity with their struggle against privatization of higher education, state repression, and the government’s systematic onslaught on public universities across India.
Signed by: 1. Snigdha Kumar, Graduate student, Sociology 2. Kriti Budhiraja, Graduate Student, Sociology 3. Anuradha Sajjanhar, Graduate Student, Sociology 4. Miray Philips, PhD student 5. Brooke Chambers, Sociology PhD Candidate 6. Aras Koksal, PhD student, University of Minnesota, USA 7. Vivian Wauters, graduate student 8. Eric Goldfischer, PhD Student, Geography 9. Brieanna Watters, PhD Student, Sociology 10. Anindita Chatterjee, Graduate student 11. Keavy McFadden, Graduate Student 12. Julie Santella, graduate student, Geography 13. Sreyashi Ray, Graduate Student, Asian Languages and Literatures 14. Harshit Rathi, Graduate Student 15. Drishadwati Bargi, Graduate Student, University of Minnesota 16. Isabel Arriagada, UMN 17. Nir Rotem, Graduate Student 18. Sayan Bhattacharya, Doctoral student 19. Michael Kadow, Graduate Student, History 20. Sarah Saddler, Graduate Student, Theatre Arts and Dance 21. Aimzhan Iztayeva, graduate student 22. Maria Mendez, PhD student 23. Jigna Desai, Professor 24. Michael Soto, Sociology PhD Student 25. Madison Van Oort, Graduate Student, Sociology 26. Annie Hill, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota 27. Ana Claudia dos Santos Sao Bernardo, Graduate student and instructor 28. Bruce Braun, Professor, Department of Geography, Environment and Society 29. Kong Pha, PhD Candidate 30. Angela M. Carter 31. Rachel Olzer, PhD student, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior 32. Ryan Steel, graduate student (sociology) 33. Victoria Piehowski, PhD Student, Sociology 34. Matt Gunther, PhD Candidate in Sociology 35. Amy August, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology 36. Agléška Cohen-Rencountre, American Studies 37. Alex Manning, PhD Candidate, Sociology, University of Minnesota 38. Robin Wright, Graduate Student 39. Anton Medvedev 40. Brittany Anderson, M.Ed YDL Student 41. Tia-Simone Gardner, Graduate Student 42. Stef Wilenchek 43. Erik Kojola, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology 44. Nithya Rajan, PhD Student 45. Nicholas-Brie Guarriello 46. Beaudelaine Pierre 47. Asli Calkivik, Assistant Professor 48. Allison Nobles, University of Minnesota Sociology Graduate Student 49. Renée Rippberger 50. Caitlin Curry, 1st Year PhD (Sociology) 51. Sameera, Undergraduate Student 52. Nina Asher, University of Minnesota 53. Rahsaan Mahadeo, PhD Candidate 54. Teri L. Caraway, Professor, Department of Political Science 55. Ann Meier 56. Jeylan Mortimer, University of Minnesota 57. Sandra K. Soto, Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota 58. Kathleen Hull, Associate Professor, Sociology 59. Ronald Aminzade, Professor 60. Michael Goldman, professor 61. Soham Patel, Graduate Student 62. Stephen Wulff, graduate student, Department of Sociology 63. Naimah Petigny, Ph.D Candidate in Feminist Studies, Department of Gender Women and Sexuality Studies 64. Arif Hayat Nairang 65. Wei Ye, Graduate Student 66. August Nimtz, Professor of Political Science and African and African American Studies 67. Tanja Andic, Graduate Student 68. Enid Logan, Associate Professor 69. Ajay Skaria, Professor, History 70. David Valentine, Associate Professor of Anthropology 71. Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Professor of Anthropology 72. Steve Kosiba 73. Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota 74. Hoon Song, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology 75. Aren Aizura, University of Minnesota, USA 76. Naomi Scheman, professor emerita, Philosophy 77. Moinak Choudhury, Graduate student 78. Karen Ho, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities 79. Amelia Hassoun, Department of Anthropology 80. Elizabeth Trister 81. Joseph Gerteis, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, USA 82. Olivier Chiron, Professor in History and Geography 83. Vinay Gidwani, Professor 84. Quynh Pham, Graduate Student 85. jim saliba, graduate student, sociology 86. Siddharth Iyengar, PhD Student 87. Ai Miller, grad student 88. Lalit Batra, Graduate Student, Geography 89. Alex Steele, Graduate Student, History.