We the undersigned, from the India Chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), would like to place on record our solidarity with the students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We find the recent events that have taken place in JNU – arrest of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition, and a lookout by the police for several other students who allegedly raised anti-national slogans – extremely disturbing. We also feel that the use of the sedition law, which was enacted by British colonial government, draconian and has no place in India. A fundamental principle in a democracy is the right to free speech. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution grants it as a fundamental right, and the Indian courts have recognised this in the past, including in the case of Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab. In this context, the framing of charges against the students of JNU is unacceptable, and should have no place in a democratic society.
Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative (NSI)
Guest Post by Students and Teachers of Syracuse University, Colgate University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
We, the undersigned at Syracuse University, Colgate University, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, are in solidarity with our comrades at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), India against the ongoing anti-democratic actions by the Indian state. We demand an immediate end to the police action against students on campus, and withdrawal of all charges against Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU Students’ Union. We further demand that the Central Government put an immediate end to its prejudiced persecution of student activists on campuses across the country.
We strongly believe that the charge of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar follows spurious claims. This arrest is an excuse for the state to root out dissenting voices on JNU campus, a move towards converting educational institutions like JNU into an arm of the authoritarian state. Attempts of a similar nature have been witnessed recently at other Indian educational institutions such as Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and Hyderabad University. The growing threat to academic freedom posed by the current political climate is transnational, and extends beyond India to other parts of the world–it is a threat we face here in the United States, too.
For any word or action to qualify as being “seditious” under Indian law, it has to directly issue a call to violence. This was not the nature of the protest held by a group of JNU students against the judiciary’s decision regarding Afzal Guru, who was convicted of an attack on the Indian parliament. The peaceful protest held on February 9 on campus was not unlike other protests convened at the university over the last several decades. Dissent is an essential part of a healthy democracy. We therefore strongly condemn the Indian government’s response to the students’ protests and demand that the state refrain from authoritarian behaviour. In this spirit, we urge the Vice Chancellor of JNU to protect members of the university community and safeguard their democratic rights. Continue reading Stand With JNU – SUNY College, Colgate and Syracuse Universities for Academic Freedom in India
Close on the heels of the planned disruption of a speech by Siddharth Varadrajan, noted journalist and ex-editor of ‘The Hindu’ on the Allahabad University campus by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (http://thewire.in/2016/01/23/editors-guild-condemns-abvp-threats-to-the-wires-founding-editor-20015/) has come the news that Sandeep Pandey, who has been working as a guest faculty in IIT-BHU for the last two and half years was recently threatened allgegedly by members of the same fraternity on the university campus itself.
It may be added here that Sandeep Pandey’s services were abruptly terminated by the university on the charge of being a naxalite and being involved in ‘anti-national’ activities (http://kafila.org/2016/01/11/letter-against-dismissal-of-prof-sandeep-pandey/). Looking at the aggressive manner in which members of the Hindutva fraternity seem to be moving it is quite possible that their threats will not remain merely at the level of words and one definitely perceives a danger to Sandeep’s well being at their hands. Continue reading Sandeep Pandey threatened by RSS persons on IIT-BHU campus
Guest Post : Letter from Ex-Students of Banaras Hindu University against the dismissal of Prof Sandeep Pandey from IIT-BHU for wider endorsement
Prof. Girish Chandra Tripathi
Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi – 221005, U.P.
We, the ex-students of Banaras Hindu University, and other concerned citizens, are writing to you to express our deep worry about removal of visiting professor Sandeep Pandey allegedly for his “anti-national activities”. He had been teaching a few branches of chemical engineering and a development studies course at the Indian Institute of Technology-BHU for two-and-a half years. Prof. Pandey is also a renowned social activist and a Magsaysay award winner. Continue reading Letter against Dismissal of Prof Sandeep Pandey
(Photo : Courtesy – goanews.com)
Ultimately the roaring voice of the FTII students reached the IFFI (International Film Festival of India) inaugural held at Panaji, Goa.
Just when the inaugural had formally ended, chief guest had spoken and the administration was on the cusp of heaving a sigh of relief for a ‘trouble free beginning’ and was contemplating to ‘pat its own back’ for managing to save its ‘image’ the precints of the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium reverberated with slogans in favour of the historic FTII struggle.
This struggle, which had continued for around five months since 12 th June , a struggle against political appointments at one of the most prestigious institutions of India which was also a wake up call at the systematic attempts underway since the ascendance of the Modi regime at centre to undermine the academic autonomy of universities and educational institutions, as everybody knows has received tremendous national-international support.
Slogans were loud enough that all the celebrities and dignitaries who had gathered there heard them.
‘It was heard by Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, his state minister Rajyawardhan Rathore, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and all the I&B ministry officials.
The two students found an empty block on top, where they were seated silently till the whole inaugural ceremony ended.’
Security people who were present there in large numbers pounced on the two of them – Com Kislay, a young film director, an alumni of FTII, who has received critical acclaim for his very first film and Shubham, another alumni of FTII – and according to a facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/FTII-Wisdom-Tree-1607915209448356/?fref=ts)
both of them have been badly beaten by the Goan police for showing the placards and shouting slogans… They are still under the police custody and being interrogated.
As of now they have been detained in Agassaim Police Station and would be presented before the magistrate. It is also learnt that they are being ‘charged with serious offences’
It is important to note that the authorities at various levels went out of way just to ensure that the voice of FTII students does not reach the IFFI. It ‘ensured’ that this year the festival would not screen a single film by students of the prestigious FTII whereas in recent years, at least five FTII entries could make it to the screening of this annual fest.
As opposed to its regular practice of paying for the conveyanc and accomodation of its students who had enrolled for the same, the FTII administration took an adhoc decision and told the students to bear their own expenses.
But despite all their attempts to intimidate the students into silence the voice did reach IFFI. It is definitely a victory of sorts – albeit of a symbolic kind.
There is no doubt that this struggle of the FTII students would continue to receive the support which it has received from artists, intellectuals, film personalities and all those people who believe are opposed to the dumbing down of society under all pretexts.
If possible contact the Goa police – especially its higher officials – and ensure that the two are not further harmed and released immediately without any charges.
Glory to the struggle of FTII students.
PUBLIC STATEMENT BY MEDIA SCHOLARS AND TEACHERS ON FTII
As teachers, scholars and researchers of the media we are deeply disturbed by the obduracy and high-handedness shown by the authorities to the legitimate issues and questions raised by the students of FTII who have been on strike since June 12, 2015.
It has now been established that Gajendra Chauhan, an official member of the BJP since 2004, was chosen to be the Chairman of the Governing Council and consequently, President of the FTII Society for his loyalty to the party and not because he has any credentials to occupy these posts. A `star campaigner” for the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections, Chauhan’s only claim to visibility has been his role as Yudhisthir in the TV series Mahabharata and his role in the current controversy. He does not possess any professional or academic qualification that makes him remotely eligible for the job. It is a an absolute travesty that Chauhan should be handed a chair that has in the past been occupied by nationally and internationally recognized personalities like UR Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mahesh Bhatt and Mrinal Sen. Continue reading A Demand to Restore the Stature and Reputation of FTII: Statement by Media Scholars and Teachers