US scholars of South Asia should boycott Indian Ministers and Officials Attacking Academic Freedom: Nandini Sundar

Kafila had earlier published a letter to Association of Asian Studies (AAS) protesting the exclusion of Pakistani scholars from its conference in Delhi, because the Government of India refused visas to them.

Nandini Sundar, in an article in The Wire, explores the complex ramifications of this issue and urges a more consistent position from scholars that would recognize and resist a) the manner in which the Indian state and Indian capital are embroiled in South Asia studies in the US academy and b) the travel ban in the US that equally excludes scholars from seven countries from participating in academic conferences held in the US.

Regarding the US travel ban, there was an international call in early 2017 for an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US, which I had supported, and renew my support to, after the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the travel ban.

And now read Nandini Sundar in The Wire:

As an India-based scholar, as someone who is not a member of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), which is primarily located in the US though it has 7,000 members worldwide, and someone who had no plans of attending the AAS-in-Asia conference in Delhi (July 4-8, 2018), the boycott call against the AAS-in-Asia is not something that would ordinarily bother me.

The boycott call arose out of the government of India’s refusal to allow Pakistani scholars to attend the AAS meeting; and the AAS’s failure to take a strong public stand against this and inform its members in a timely fashion so that they could make their own choices about whether to attend while Pakistani scholars were being denied. 649 scholars protested against what appeared to be the AAS’s and the local host, Ashoka University’s quiescence in an unacceptable restriction on academic freedom. I was one of them, even though my primary anger was with the government of India, and not with the AAS. However, feeling that this was not enough, over 200 of the signatories have also decided to boycott the conference, arguing that the AAS should have had the courage to cancel the conference altogether rather than submit to the ban.



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