Tag Archives: sedition

My Friend Anand

Image result for anand teltumbde

It is rather difficult to begin when you know that within a few days or weeks, one of your close friends could be behind bars under one of the most draconian laws crafted by this Republic.

The world knows him as Anand Teltumbde, but for me he has always been Anand.

Merely four months ago, we were together in a seminar in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) where Anand spoke on one of his key concerns, namely, the divergence between dalit and Left movements. Continue reading My Friend Anand

Reclaiming Punjab University-Student Protests Erupt in Chandigarh: Prerna Trehan

Guest Post by Prerna Trehan

While walking through the lawns between the Library and the Chemistry Department , one is confronted with the sudden and  scary sight of policemen brandishing canes.

One of the policemen says, threateningly : “Go inside, before we start shooting bombs” (of tear gas). Behind him two policemen leap at a bewildered group of boys raining lathis and choicest of abuses.

This scene could be right out of the woeful alleys of Palestine, Syria or even Kashmir. However, the events that it describes  took place yesterday in Panjab University, nestled in India’s first planned city, Nehru’s vision of modernity-Chandigarh.

Continue reading Reclaiming Punjab University-Student Protests Erupt in Chandigarh: Prerna Trehan

Folk Singer Kovan Lampoons Jayalalitha’s Promise

Kovan, the Dalit-activist poet and singer and member of a revolutionary organisation PALA (People’s Arts And Literary Association), from Trichy district in Tamil Nadu, has been in the news lately. One of his anti-Jayalalitha songs earned him the ire of the state government, which slapped a Sedition case against him in December 2015.

In this video sent to us by Vinavu Thalam, Kovan lampoons Jayalalitha’s promise of “step by step prohibition” as “peg by peg de-addiction”!

Seduce the gullible voters with false promise/ File sedition cases against those who fight/ This is her game/ The game of a cheat/

In Chennai slang, “Bongu” means, a Cheat! She is the AMMA of all cheats!

Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle

I have come home a little while ago from Jawaharlal Nehru University after listening to Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya take back the night. As I drove home  through the quiet streets of Delhi after midnight it occurred to me that somebody should whisper into Narendra Modi’s ear that he should now start stocking up on sleeping pills. (Maybe Baba Ramdev’s enterprise makes some that he could prescribe to the Prime Minister, unadulterated). With young people like Umar and Anirban as his adversaries, the Prime Minister can only have sleepless nights ahead of him. It is perhaps fortunate for him that the team from Madame Tussaud’s came by and did their job yesterday. Because from now on, his real skin tone will only envy the lustre of his wax work. Umar and Anirban, and their friends, took away the little remaining shine that Modi had left at midnight.

Continue reading Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle

Save Democracy, Release Umar, Anirban and SAR Geelani, Enact Rohith Act – JNU Marches again in Delhi

For the fourth time since the early February, students, faculty and their friends marched in Delhi. Once again, there were thousands of people, walking from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. This time, there was focused attention on the demand for the release of the detained JNU students – Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, the DU Professor S.A.R Geelani, solidarity with JNU Prof. Nivedita Menon and the poet-scientist Gauhar Raza against their media trials, and a direct attack on the creeping fascism of the Modi regime. Here are some moments from this march.

(Thanks to Aniket Prantdarshi, Kavita Krishnan, Samim Asgor Ali and Anish Ahluwalia, ‘We are JNU’ for their photos and videos, which I have taken from their Facebook pages and Youtube Channels)

Continue reading Save Democracy, Release Umar, Anirban and SAR Geelani, Enact Rohith Act – JNU Marches again in Delhi

Long Nights of Revolution, Dancing, Music and Poetry are Ahead: Veer Vikram

[ Here are five joyous excerpts of recordings from a recent night on the JNU campus – after Kanhaiya Kumar came back –  recorded by a young person called Veer Vikram. We do not know who Veer Vikram is, but came across his Youtube Channel, and were struck by the raw freshness of the voices and of the footage. So we are sharing them with you, saluting the generosity of Veer Vikram, who recorded these and uploaded them on to Youtube for everyone to enjoy. May there be many long nights of joy, music, dancing and poetry – in campuses, factories and neighborhoods – everywhere  Think so what a beautiful sight a ‘vishaal jan jagaran’ (as distinct from a ‘bhagawati’ jagaran) can make in different corners of Delhi, and in every city and town where young people can no longer take the rubbish offered by TV channels and the Modi regime. The revolution will be danced, sang, dreamt, recorded, uploaded, downloaded, shared and enjoyed. No more words necessary ]

St Louis Universities Stand With JNU: A Statement

 

Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) in New Delhi, India, was arrested on Feb 10 on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Kanhaiya was present at a meeting on the evening of Feb 9, where incendiary slogans were allegedly raised. Seven other students were also charged. Mr. Kumar is not accused of raising the slogans; indeed the identity of the person(s) who raised the slogans remains a mystery. Charging a student leader for sedition for another’s mere sloganeering is prima facie absurd. Further, the assault of Mr. Kumar, other students and faculty, and even journalists, in court premises by lawyers and others sympathetic to the government, do not inspire confidence in a fair judicial process. Continue reading St Louis Universities Stand With JNU: A Statement

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

Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa

The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.

To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.

At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa

A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

Signal to Noise Ratio

There has been a lot of talk about what exactly ‘Azadi’ (freedom) means, especially in the wake of Kanhaiya Kumar’s post release midnight speech at JNU on the 4th of March. So lets talk some more. No harm talking. If there is noise, there must also be a signal, somewhere.

Kanhaiya Kumar clarified in his electrifying, riveting speech that his evocation of Azadi was a call for freedom ‘in’ India, not a demand, or even an endorsement of a demand for freedom ‘from’ India.

This may come as a sigh of relief to some, – Kanhaiya , the man of the moment, proves his ‘good’ patriotic credentials, leading to an airing of the by now familiar ‘good nationalist vs. bad nationalist’ trope. And everyone on television loves a nationalist, some love a good nationalist even more.

Perhaps this was a way of dealing with a bail order that was at the same time a gag order.

[ P.S. : Since writing this last night, a more careful reading of the bail order has suggested to me that the actual terms of bail are not so bad after all. Bail is in fact granted, as far as I can see, fairly unconditionally. Kanhaiya is not asked, for instance, to step down from his position in the students’ union, nor are restrictions placed on his movement and activity. So in technically legal sense, the bail provisions need not be interpreted in a tightly restricted manner. The egregious political hortations, the references to infection, antibiotics, amputation and gangrene, which are over and above the legal instructions, are indeed terrible, but operationally, they have no executive authority backing them.]

But to say just that the text of the bail order is what shaped Kanhaiya’s midnight speech would be ungenerous, and miserly, especially in response to the palpably real passion that someone like Kanhaiya has for a better world, and for a better future for the country he lives and believes in. I have no doubt about the fact that coming as he does from the most moderate section of the Indian Left (the CPI – well known for their long term affection for the ‘national bourgeoisie’ despite the national bourgeouisie’s long term indifference/indulgence towards them), Kanhaiya is a genuine populist nationalist patriot [I have corrected ‘nationalist’ to ‘patriot’ here in response to the criticism and suggestion held out by Virat Mehta’s comment – see below in the comments section] and a democrat moulded as he says, equally by Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar. There is a lot to admire in that vision, even in partial disagreement. And while some may not necessarily share his nationalism, this does not mean that one has to treat it with contempt either. I certainly don’t.

Continue reading A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

‘Feeling Seditious’: March on Parliament to #StandwithJNU

For the third time within a span of two weeks since the middle of February, thousands of people came out on the streets of Delhi to express their solidarity with the detained students of JNU (Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban) and to voice their anger with the venal Modi regime.

Protest demonstrations (at least in northern India) tend to have something of the monotonous in them, the same cadence, the same rhythm and the same wailing, complaining tone. They tend to have an air of events staged by the defeated, for the defeated. But if we take the last three big protests in the city, and the many gatherings in JNU in the last two weeks or so,  as any indicator of what the pulse of our time is, we will have to agree that there has been a qualitative transformation in the language, vocabulary and  affect of protests. This afternoon, like the afternoon of the 18th (the first big JNU solidarity march), and of the 23rd of February (the Justice for Rohith Vemula March), was as much about the joy of togetherness and friendship as it was about rage and anger.

Continue reading ‘Feeling Seditious’: March on Parliament to #StandwithJNU

JNUSU Statement of Thanks for Global Support and Call for International Day of Protest and Action in Solidarity with Students in India on 2nd March 2016 : Shehla & Rama Naga (JNUSU)

Guest Post by Shehla (Vice-President, JNUSU) and Rama Naga (General Secretary, JNUSU)

To all Friends (in Delhi, India and the World) who have Supported the Struggle of JNU students and students elsewhere in India  in the past few weeks.

Thank you for your message of solidarity. In this hour of unprecedented attack on us, what has been a source of great strength are messages like these, which we have pasted all over the Administration Building. We have not been able to respond to each message because of being extremely overburdened. However, we are writing back today, in order to update you regarding the status of the struggle, and with a call to action on the 2nd of March, 2016 in your city.

Call for Global Day of Protest and March to Parliament for JNU - March 2nd, 2016
Call for Global Day of Protest and March to Parliament for JNU – March 2nd, 2016

Continue reading JNUSU Statement of Thanks for Global Support and Call for International Day of Protest and Action in Solidarity with Students in India on 2nd March 2016 : Shehla & Rama Naga (JNUSU)

Sedition and the Problem of Discretionary Exercise of Police Power: Mathew John

This is a Guest Post by Mathew John

The interpretation of law does not only take place in courts. In our season of ‘seditious’ speech this would seem an obvious point as the police administration is as much engaged in the process of legal interpretation or, as legal speak would have it, exercising discretionary powers. However, while courts have to at least minimally ensure that their decisions are backed by reason and aligned with previous decisions, the cases filed against Kanaihya Kumar and others seems to suggest that the police administration can operate almost as a universe unto itself in its interpretation of Indian criminal law. Of course police action will have to tested and defended in court but what if the police bring flimsy cases to trial to inflict long drawn out legal process as punishment for dissenting speech?

There has been an avalanche of excellent recent writing in recent days on the criminal offence of sedition. These have emphasised two broad points. On the one hand they have traced the offence of sedition to the authoritarian designs of the British colonial state seeking to control restive Indian opinion. On the other, opinion has also noted that Indian Courts while upholding the constitutionality of the offence of sedition have held that the speech can be penalised on this ground only when accompanied by an imminent threat of disorder, disturbance or violence. However, the JNU fracas as other similar cases in recent memory involving Arundhati Roy, Binayak Sen and Aseem Trivedi among others, demonstrate that this judicial standard reading down the offence of sedition to a very narrow set of speech acts has not constrained subsequent police action. On the contrary police administrations in the current JNU case have pursued citizens for seditious speech even when their speech could not in any objective manner be tied to imminent threats of disorder. That is, the criminal provisions on sedition section are used against the spirit of the law as laid down by the Supreme Court and is mobilised to with little cause but the harassment of dissenting opinion. In such situations what can defenders of free speech do to ensure that legal process is not abused to harass dissent?

Continue reading Sedition and the Problem of Discretionary Exercise of Police Power: Mathew John

Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy on the JNU Situtation

Guest Post by Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy

The Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy strongly condemns the clampdown in Jawaharlal Nehru University. We deplore the targeting of students and teachers and condemn the culture of authoritarian menace that the Central Government has unleashed.  We strongly believe that dissent is not sedition and invoking sedition laws against students, ordering the police to enter the campus and unlawfully arresting a student leader, issuing warrants against many others on charges of inciting violence, attacking students, teachers and arrested student in the court premises, are serious assault on the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country.  The right to dissent is fundamental to maintaining democracy and the recent developments have shaken the foundations of democracy. We condemn the indiscriminate use of the colonial law of sedition on dissenting voices.

The attack on JNU is an attack on our diversity, on public funding of universities and access to higher education for the common people. The vicious campaign of ‘tax-payers’ monies funding the anti-nationals’ is highly regressive and malicious.   It is only through public funding and reservation policies that access to higher education has been expanded for students from all backgrounds, especially girl students from poorer backgrounds. It is public funding which makes higher education accessible to many. Continue reading Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy on the JNU Situtation

#NoDissentNoCountry #StandWithJNU

Williams College Stands with JNU!

 

Kajri Jain, University of Toronto

 

Aarti Sethi, (JNU 2009), Columbia University

A complete Hindi transcript and video of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech is available here.

A complete English translation may be accessed here.

Rohith Vemula’s last note may be accessed here.

Oxford University Members and Alumni in Solidarity with JNU: Oxford Students, Faculty and Alumni

Guest Post by students, faculty and alumni of Oxford University, UK

We, the undersigned members and alumni of the University of Oxford, stand firmly in solidarity with fellow students, teachers and scholars at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the ongoing persecution of the student community in JNU, in particular the arrest of JNU Students Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar under sedition charges. We protest the use of institutional and state machinery to stifle dissent on campuses, and the attempt to persecute those whose views do not conform to the narrow narratives of ‘nationalism’, ‘nationhood’ and ‘Indian culture’ promoted and endorsed by the ruling party. We view the crackdown in JNU in a continuum with the use of state machinery to clamp down on dissenting views and ideologies on campuses, most prominently at the FTII, Jadavpur University, IIT-Madras and the University of Hyderabad (UoH). We would like to point out that it was a similar witchhunt, backed by state authority, that led to the suicide of Dalit scholar and student leader of the Ambedkar Students’ Association, Rohith Vemula. We also stand in solidarity with the ongoing rally hunger strike at UoH and the struggles of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, demanding justice for Rohith Vemula.

Continue reading Oxford University Members and Alumni in Solidarity with JNU: Oxford Students, Faculty and Alumni

Letter of Solidarity from International Association of Women in Radio and Television (India Chapter) for JNU

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.

Continue reading Letter of Solidarity from International Association of Women in Radio and Television (India Chapter) for JNU

#AssamwithJNU – Thousands take to the Streets in Assam: Bonojit Hussain

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Last two days had seen several #AssamWithJNU #JusticeForRohith protests and rallies demanding justice for Rohith Vemula and against the assault on JNU, police crackdown and arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar under the charges of sedition, media trial of Umar Khalid, and the undeclared emergency in the country.

Continue reading #AssamwithJNU – Thousands take to the Streets in Assam: Bonojit Hussain

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

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