Conversations on Sedition: Ritanjan Das and Abhijit Sengupta

The weeks following the February 9th incident within the JNU campus have been nothing but eventful in India’s social and political discourse. At least, this is something most of us will agree on, no matter which side of this increasingly impermeable “fence” we sit on.  There have been arguments, counter arguments thrown from each side to the other, names have been dug up and hurled across, evidence in favour of what purportedly happened or did not happen have been put up by each side for the other to see. Videos have been made, unmade; cartoons have been drawn, redrawn; political figures have been idolised, lampooned; students have been demonized and idolized; dangers of the increasing menace of nationalism and anti-nationalism have been stuffed down one’s throat through the so called idiot box or the smart net.

In the midst of this deluge of opinions and ideas, information and misinformation, the question that some have raised is, are both sides losing the plot a bit? What exactly are we discussing or debating so vociferously? Are we really listening to the other sides’ arguments, or are we just hearing a few words we want to hear and voicing our own opinions in pre-designed responses? These are some of issues we are highlighting in this piece, hopefully in a slightly different format than what we are used to elsewhere.

What follows is a conversation between two intelligent people from opposite sides of the fence. The conversation is based on some real ones, which the authors of this piece had actually engaged in with different individuals over the last few weeks. We have attempted to distil the central ideas of both sides and present it to the readers. We cannot and have not included every aspect of the ideas and opinions of both sides, and we will not include the abuse. But what we have attempted to capture, is a reasoned and rational attempt at understanding the real problem(s), as understood by each side. Continue reading “Conversations on Sedition: Ritanjan Das and Abhijit Sengupta”

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa! : To A Student from CDS

Dear Student from CDS who pasted the posters criticising  our collective effort to stand with JNU

I write in response to the views that you expressed on those posters. First of all, let me tell you how much I’d have appreciated if you expressed those views openly right from the beginning, so that we could have had a proper debate. I do wish we stopped scribbling comments on each others’ posters – this is an open campus, and surely, we don’t practice the Sangh Parivar’s intolerance of a contrary opinion. No one, I assure you, will harm you in any way, and I am sure all my fellow teachers, students, and non-teaching staff will join me in assuring you thus.

Continue reading “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa! : To A Student from CDS”

ALL INDIA LAWYERS UNION RAJASTHAN STATE COMMITTEE: Solidarity Message to JNU

ALL INDIA LAWYERS UNION RAJASTHAN STATE COMMITTEE

Dated:18.2.2016

SOLIDARITY MESSAGE TO JNU

All India Lawyers Union (AILU), Rajasthan State Unit, strongly condemn the recent incident where individuals in uniform of Advocates misbehaved and assaulted Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of JNU Students Union, JNU faculties, Media persons on 15.2.2016 when Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar was produced in court before the magistrate is very serious issue and it became vigorous when the incident was repeated after two days, on 17.2.2016 despite of the actions given byHon’ble Supreme Court.

Further the AILU is of the view that the Jawahar Lal Nehru University is one of the institutions in the world where healthy atmosphere is developed over a time to discuss over the national and international issues. The students as well as the faculty members thereof is of the caliber to suggest a visionary and logical culmination, which not only important for individual but also for the nation and humanity as whole. Furthermore, University is a place where new ideas are developed, questions are asked and policies are praised or criticized. If any unwarranted incident is happened in the campus of the university, certainly an action has to be initiated against the responsible individual and for such action the university administration is having sufficient measures to act upon and no police action inside the campus was required at all. If the university authorities failed to take action or has shown its inability to restrict such activity, only then the police force may be used.

As such the police action in the university campus was absolutely unwarranted, unjustified and abuse of power by the state machinery.

Arrest of Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar and other students and treating them like hardcore criminals/terrorists, in the name of sedation without any substantial evidence, is not expected in a civilized society. The crime of sedation was inserted in IPC by the British rule in order to supress anyone who used to speak against the colonial rule. This term ‘sedation’ is obsolete and has no place in a democratic system like ours, especially in the educational institutions, having international reputation. Framing students in the name of sedation is clearly an attack on the fundamental rights, that is, of speech and expression.

Intentional avoidance of the Hon’ble Supreme Court instructions is apparently an act of contempt of court for which stern action has to be taken. AILU strongly suggests to take following actions against the responsible :

(i) Criminal case has to be registered against the advocates or the persons in the advocates’ uniform indulged in assaulting within the court premises;

(ii) Separate proceeding of criminal contempt is to be started against the persons involved in assaulting despite instructions of Supreme Court;

(iii) The police personals deployed at the court campus, in front of whom the act of assault was occurred has to be suspended henceforth and inquiry has to be initiated against them;

(iv) Mr. Om Prakash Sharma, the sitting MLA, who was apparently involved in the assaulting and to instigate others to involve in assaulting, his membership of Legislative Assembly is to be seized, proceeding of criminal contempt is to be initiated against him;

(v) The courts are the place where people come with the deep faith to get justice but such type of incidents not only deprive the people to avail justice but also diminish the belief in rule of law, and therefore, stern action has to be initiated against each and every responsible person whomsoever he is;

(vi) Code of conduct for advocates has to be reviewed and it may be inserted that any advocate, who involves in such incidents occured on 15.2.2016 and 17.02.2016, shall be restricted to appear in court as well as seize their auth of advocacy;

(vii) The magistrate, before whom the repeated disruption of court proceeding was occurred but no action against the responsible advocates/persons was taken, no FIR was lodged, stern action is required to be initiated against him.

The AILU condemn both the incidents, i.e. abuse of power by the police administration in the JNU campus and omission to prevent the assault on the students faculties and media persons in the court room /campus of Patiala House court. Our organization also demands for immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar, president of JNUSU, so that normalcy can be restored.

(Dr. Vikram Singh Nain)

General Sectretary

General Secretary: Dr. Vikram Singh Nain Advocate Mobile No: +91 9414069959 Office: 0141-2810959 E-mail: nain_vs@yahoo.co.in

President: Sanjay Tyagi Advocate Mobile No.+91 9414048493 +91 9314013492

8, Nagaur Nagar, Nr. Kisaan Dharam Kanta Gopalpura Bye-pass Road, Jaipur-302019

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH STUDENT ACTIVISTS IN INDIA: University of Pennsylvania & Philadelphia South Asian Collective

We, activists and academics in the Pennsylvania region, strongly condemn the attack on academic freedom at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the President of the JNU Student’s Union, on charges of sedition has brought to light the intervention of the Union Government in the internal matters of the university. The repeated interference by police personnel at the behest of Vice Chancellors on university campuses is a draconian move. The charges against students were brought after an event organized by a section of students on campus premises to discuss the judicial execution of Afzal Guru. The JNU Students’ Union was subsequently held responsible for the “anti-national” slogans that were chanted by a group of students. We condemn these trumped-up and unconstitutional charges and stand in solidarity with the efforts to repeal capital punishment in India.

The events unfolding at JNU reveal disturbing similarities with instances of government repression on other campuses. We remember, with distress, the actions of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration in cahoots with the Central Government, actions that led to the death of a promising Ambedkarite student-activist, Rohith Vemula. The protests that arose indicted the discriminatory atmosphere prevailing in our universities as tantamount to the denial of the fundamental right to education to socially marginalized groups. Further, the murder of social thinkers like Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi by hyper-nationalist elements under the tacit encouragement of the policies of the Central Government has shocked all advocates of free speech in India.

The charges of sedition against students participating in democratic discussion of public events is highly objectionable. The stifling of voices through intimidation and muscle power does not bode well for educational institutions.

Debate and dissent are integral parts of a strong democracy. Universities are critical public spaces that support these democratic practices to realize the values of social justice enshrined in the ideals of the constitution. International campuses like JNU, FTII and UoH bring together diverse group of students in the spirit of self-reflexive and deep intellectual engagement to ask fundamental questions of their social realities. An attack on these institutions is an attack on this precious pedagogical space. Student movements in India in alliance with other social movements in the country have historically been a resilient and sensitive force. The BJP government’s efforts to undermine them is nothing but an assault on Indian democracy. The government has failed to protect the rights of student bodies, and the highhandedness of the police highlights the insecurities of the present government.

In the United States during a presidential election year, we watch increasingly bigoted views against blacks, Muslims, and immigrants gaining ground. These events cannot be seen in isolation and we stand at the intersection of socio-political movements in the US and South Asia.

We stand in solidarity with students and faculty of JNU and demand the immediate release of the detained students. We appeal to all advocates for academic freedom in India and abroad to stand united against this state atrocity.

  1. Anannya Bohidar, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  2. Ammel Sharon, Graduate Student, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  3. Meghna Chandra, Philadelphia South Asian Collective
  4. Ania Loomba, English, University of Pennsylvania
  5. Projit Mukharji, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
  6. Najnin Islam, Graduate Student, English, University of Pennsylvania

Continue reading “STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH STUDENT ACTIVISTS IN INDIA: University of Pennsylvania & Philadelphia South Asian Collective”

Letter of solidarity with JNU: Students, Staff and Faculty, Ashoka University

We, the undersigned—who study and work at Ashoka University, as well as the alumni of the Young India Fellowship, in our private capacity—write to voice our solidarity with the students and faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Recent events at JNU, including the arrest of the JNUSU President over the charge of sedition, as well as other disproportionate measures, amount to a deeply troubling attack on academic and cultural freedom. We strongly condemn the display of brute force by the police, who were given free entry to the campus, including hostels, to question, detain and arrest students and faculty members. We protest the lack of police protection to those students and faculty, and condemn the use of State force against democratic expressions of dissent.

As proponents of liberal education, we believe that societies can only grow when they foster intellectual engagement with fundamental social questions and contemporary political issues through non-violent debate and argumentation. University campuses are, and should be, autonomous spaces where people can peacefully express as well as challenge dissent and opinions. However, the recent spate of events involving many university campuses across the country has posed a serious threat to the sanctity of such spaces as well as the democratic right to dissent and freedom of speech and expression. This includes the turn of events that led to Rohith Vemula’s death at the University of Hyderabad, the withholding of grants by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to Panjab University, and several instances of violent disruption of the screening of the film Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai in campuses across the country.

We condemn the State-backed misuse of the charge of sedition, a colonial era provision in the Indian Penal Code, against the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar. In the documented absence of any allegedly ‘anti-national’ actions or rhetoric on his part, we see the charge as an attempt to stifle dissent from the dominant order and silence critique of the State. We strongly believe that the provision against sedition, which was repealed in the United Kingdom itself in 2009, has no place in modern democracy. Most immediately, we strongly disapprove of the action of certain lawyers and a Member of the Legislative Assembly who physically attacked JNU students and faculty members as well as journalists outside the Patiala Court House premises on 15th February, 2016.

We fear that the continued State inaction against such instances of violence will foster an environment in which the label “anti-national” or “traitor” can be imposed on every voice of dissent.

We urge that:

the JNU campus be restored to normalcy and the police be withdrawn from all parts of the campus.

the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar be released from police custody immediately and all charges be dropped against him.

such unconstitutional actions be denounced.

we be allowed to nurture our universities as tolerant, democratic spaces where dissent and disagreement is respected, discussions are nurtured, and critical thinkers are born.

Faculty

Ajit Mishra

Bhaskar Dutta

Malvika Maheshwari

Alex Watson

Debarati Roy

Mandakini Dubey

Anisha Sharma

Durba Chattaraj

Maya Saran

Anunaya Chaubey

Gilles Verniers

Nayanjot Lahiri

Anuradha Saha

Gwendolyn Kelly

Rajendran Narayanan

Aparajita Dasgupta

Jonathan Gil Harris

Ratna Menon

Aparna vaidik

Kranti Saran

Ravindran Sriramachandran

Arunava Sinha

Kunal Joshi

Saikat Majumdar

Aruni Kashyap

M A Ahmad Khan

Supriya Nayak

Pulapre Balakrishnan

Madhavi Menon

Vaiju naravane

Bharat Ramaswami

Malabika Sarkar

Vishes Kothari

Staff

Adil Shah

Kanika Singh

Shiv D Sharma

Aniha Brar

Karuna

Shreya Khedia

Anu Singh

Meena S. Wilson

Sudarshana Chanda

Anuja Kelkar

Mercia Prince

Suha Gangopadhyay

Charu Singh

Priyanka Kumar

Sukanya Banerjee

Chiranjit mahato

Sarah Afraz

Sushmita Nath

Dr Maaz Bin Bilal

Saumya Varma

Swarnim Khare

Harshita Tripathi

Saurav Goswami

Tanita Abraham

Ishan de Souza

Sayan Chaudhuri

Zehra

Sushmita Samaddar

Surya Raman

Sandeep Saraswal

Apoorva Gupta

Aditya Sarin

Chandan Sharma

Alumni

Aafaque R Khan

Kaavya Gupta

Rishi Iyengar

Akanksha

Kande Sruthi Niveditha

Ritesh Agarwal

Akshay Barik

Kaustubh Khare

Rohini Singh

Ananta Seth

Maansi Verma

Rupali Kapoor

Antony Arul Valan

Malini Bose

Sai Krishna Kumaraswamy

Anushka Siddiqui

Mayank Sharma

Sakshi Ghai

Ashish Kumar

Mrudula Nujella

Shahzaib Ahmed

Ashweetha

Neil Maheshwari

Shaleen Wadhwana

Avni Ahuja

Neelakshi Tewari

Shashank Mittal

Chaarvi Badani

Nikita Saxena

Shivangi Pareek

Danish Ahmad Mir

Nina Sud

Shrestha Mullick

Debanshu Roy

Nipun Arora

Shweta Subbaraman

Deepika Ghosh

Parushya

Simeen Kaleem

Devleena Chatterji

Pavithra Srinivasan

Simranpreet Oberoi

Dhaneesh Jameson

Poornima Sardana

Sonal Jain

Dhwani Sabesh

Pragya Mukherjee

Subhodeep Jash

Hardika Dayalani

Prama Neeraja

Tanuj Bhojwani

Harsh Mani Tripathi

Rahul Sreekumar

Taysir Moonim

Harsh Snehanshu

Rajat Nayyar

Vaishnavi Viraj

Himanshu Ranjan

Ratul Chowdhury

Venkat Prasath

Jahanara Rabia Raza

Rimjhim Roy

Vishal Khatri

#NoDissentNoCOUNTRY #StandWithJNU

As the People’s Republic of Delhi dances to freedom’s song, people from around the world liberate banned speech. Bol Ke Labh Azad Hain Tere!

Divya Cherian, (JNU 2008) Rutgers University

 

Dora Zhang and Damon Young, University of California, Berkeley

 

Greta LaFleur, Yale University

A full text of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech and a video is available here:http://kafila.org/2016/02/15/jnusu-president-kanhaiya-kumars-speech-before-being-arrested/

A complete English Translation may be accessed here: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1160216/jsp/frontpage/story_69576.jsp#.VsMg17R97GL