Statement against the police raid on Dr. Satyanarayana’s house

Statement by academics in American universities

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the raid on Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana’s official university residence, conducted by the Pune police as part of their recent raids on activists in India.

Dr. Satyanarayana is currently Head of the Department of Cultural Studies and Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He has been instrumental in establishing Dalit Studies as an academic discipline and he has co-edited landmark books on dalit studies and vernacular dalit literatures, including Steel Nibs are Sprouting, No Alphabet in Sight and Dalit Studies. Pavana is a lecturer in Hyderabad and a founding member of the Andhra Pradesh Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya, an organization working for women’s rights. She was also editor of the Telugu feminist magazine Mahila Margam. Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana are the son-in-law and daughter of poet and activist Varavara Rao, one of five people arrested in the raids.

The police raided Satyanarayana and Pavana’s house on the basis of a suspicion that Varavara Rao was residing there. This information was presented to them in a Marathi search warrant that neither Satyanarayana nor Pavana could read; it was finally translated into English on Satyanarayana’s insistence at around 5 PM, after the police had been in the house for over 8 hours. The search was conducted even as Mr. Varavara Rao’s own house was being searched and as he was being placed under arrest. It is clear that Satyanarayana and Pavana’s relationship to Varavara Rao was used as a pretext to harass them, even when it was immediately evident that Varavara Rao was not at their house.

During the raid, they were questioned about the differences in their castes, about Pavana’s clothing, the absence of any Hindu markers of marriage on her, and the extensive collection of books in their library, including books on Marx, Ambedkar, Mao and the dalit and feminist movements. Satyanarayana was not allowed to change his clothes or use the bathroom without being watched by a policeman, and Satyanarayana and Pavana’s letters to each other were read out aloud, in a blatant disregard of their privacy and dignity. Their laptops, internal hard disk of their desktop computer, external hard drive and other electronic devices were seized, and they were forced to give up the passwords for their emails and laptops. Dr. Satyanarayana has lost over two decades of work as a result, and Pavana lost documents related to Mahila Margam and the Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya, including material on the history of the organization.

The scope of the search and the manner in which it was carried out is highly distressing. This raid is not the first instance of attacks on academics under the BJP government. We have seen this happen at JNU, Delhi University, TISS, Mumbai, University of Hyderabad and other institutions. However, we, as academics and researchers, are deeply concerned about the following precedents set by the raid:

  • It was a clear violation of procedure and law as Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana have no cases pending against them
  • It stretches the idea of culpability and treats Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana as suspect for their appearance, their inter-caste marriage and their work – none of which were or should be within the scope of the investigation the police said they were pursuing
  • It criminalizes them for possessing books on caste, feminism and Marxism
  • It sets a precedent for making any and all academic work suspect
  • It casts suspicion on academics and activists who do not live according to majoritarian rules

We strongly condemn the harassment and intimidation Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana have been subject to and urge that it be given the serious attention it deserves. We also strongly condemn the harassment and arrests of other intellectuals and activists as a part of these raids.

Sravanthi Kollu, University of Minnesota

Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota

Afsar Mohammad, Department of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania,

Vinay Gidwani, University of Minnesota

Samia Vasa, Emory University

Ajay Skaria, University of Minnesota

Drishadwati Bargi, University of Minnesota

Amit R. Baishya, University of Oklahoma

Tanmoy Sharma, Yale University

Yasmin Saikia, Arizona State University

Balmurli Natrajan, William Paterson University

Shaunna Rodrigues, Columbia University

Sreyashi Ray, University of Minnesota

Suvadip Sinha, University of Minnesota

Jay Rajiva, Georgia State University

Dhrijyoti Kalita, University of Minnesota

Susie Tharu, former professor, English and Foreign Languages University

Aniruddha Dutta, University of Iowa

Neepa Majumdar, University of Pittsburgh

Abikal Borah, University of Texas at Austin

Tathagatan Ravindran, Universidad ICESI, Colombia

Mayank Kohli, University of Minnesota

Abhishek Bhattacharyya, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nabina Das, poet, Hyderabad

Elja Roy, University of Minnesota

Lisa Mitchell, University of Pennsylvania

Pranoo Deshraju, University of Hyderabad

Anirban Baishya, University of Southern California

Devleena Chatterji, University of Minnesota

Tejaswini Niranjana, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

Vislavath Rajunayak EFL-University Hyderabad

Harshit Rathi, University of Minnesota

Leya Mathew, Ahmedabad University
Ajay Raina, Filmmaker, Bangalore

Arif Hayat Nairang, University of Minnesota

Savitha Suresh Babu, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, University of Chicago

Keya Bardalai, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

Christi Merrill, University of Michigan

Amritjit Singh, Ohio University

Sravana Borkataky-Varma, University of North Carolina-Wilmington

Ania Loomba, University of Pennsylvania.

Mrinal Kaul, Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal

Jürgen Neuß, Free University Berlin, Germany

Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto

Shreyas Sreenath, Emory University, Atlanta

John Nemec, University of Virginia

Shaman Hatley, University of Massachusetts Boston

Rekha Pappu, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad

Borayin Larios, University of Heidelberg

Nathaniel Roberts, University of Göttingen

Shyam Ranganathan, York University

Atreyee Gohain, Bethune-Cookman University

Christopher Chekuri, San Francisco State University

Emily A. Durham, University of Minnesota

Gitanjali Joshua, University of Hyderabad

Mona Bhan, DePauw University

Shalmali Jadhav, University of Michigan

Jens Lerche, SOAS University of London

Alpa Shah, London School of Economics

Aalekhya Malladi, Emory University

Anasuya Sengupta, researcher, Richmond

Kriti Budhiraja, University of Minnesota

Suvir Kaul, University of Pennyslvania

Navtej Purewal, SOAS University of London

Rochana Bajpai SOAS University of London

Andrew J. Nicholson, Princeton University

Sharmila Rudrappa, University of Texas at Austin

Snehal Shingavi, University of Texas at Austin

Meghan Gorman-DaRif, University of Texas at Austin

Eleanor Newbigin, SOAS University of London

Francis Cody, University of Toronto

Alessandra Mezzadri, SOAS

Matilde Adduci, Research Associate, SOAS, University of London

David Mosse, SOAS University of London

Loriliai Biernacki University of Colorado at Boulder

T.Sowjanya, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad

Gautam Basu Thakur, Boise State University

Luis González-Reimann, University of California, Berkeley

Kenneth Bo Nielsen, University of Oslo

Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick

Gautham Reddy, University of Chicago

Subir Sinha, SOAS, London

Mabel Denzin Gergan, Florida State U

Jonathan Pattenden, University of East Anglia, UK

Ketaki Jaywant, University of Minnesota

Sneha Jadhav, Yale University

Anindita Chatterjee, University of Minnesota

Anuja Madan, Kansas State University

Lalit Batra, University of Minnesota

Sangeeta Kamat, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Biju Mathew, Rider University, New Jersey



One thought on “Statement against the police raid on Dr. Satyanarayana’s house”

  1. Creating fear among people in general and academicians in particular seems to be the primary objective of establishment. This should be confronted by courage and resilience


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