Attack on universities in India

SANSAD News-release, February 14, 2016

Stop the attack on universities in India

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) condemns the arrest of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union president, Kanhaiya Kumar and seven other students on the charge of sedition and criminal conspiracy in New Delhi on February 12 and February 13. These arrests, following a meeting held on the university campus  on February 9 to commemorate  what the organizers called the “judicial killing” of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri convicted for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 who was hanged in secret in the Tihar jail in 2014, are another example of the campaign of terror by the state apparatus and non-state operators in India to silence dissent and prohibit debate in universities and public spaces.

We deplore the statements of the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and the Minister for Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani urging the prosecution of dissenting students in universities that have been called a declaration of war against universities by leading educators, intellectuals, artists, and writers in a statement issued on February 14. Revealing the connection between the government’s agenda and the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS),  the latter has called for the purge of all dissenting students, branded as “anti-national,”  from universities across India.

The events at JNU are intimately related to the recent events at the University of Hyderabad that led to the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula on January 17. In both incidents a group of dissenting students were attacked by the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, who called on the university to expel dissenting students labeled “ant-national” while the University administration, also bowing to the government, obliged by collaborating with the police against the accused students. The JNU Teachers’ Union and a distinguished body of JNU alumni including many internationally renowned scholars have condemned the University administration for enabling the police’s to make extensive search of the university premises and random arrests of students at the expense of the university’s internal processes.

We stand in solidarity with the JNU Student Union, JNU Teacher’s Union, and all students, intellectuals, artists, and writers in India who are engaged in defending India’s secular constitution and the right to the freedom of thought and expression that it grants the citizens of India.  We applaud their struggle to maintain democracy and the right to dissent that is fundamental to it. we condemn the government of India for its use of state and non-state operators to subvert democracy and the freedom to think, express, and dissent. We deplore the pliancy of the university administration to the dictates of the ruling party. We demand that all the students who have been arrested be immediately released with all the charges against them dropped and that places of education in India be kept free for enquiry, expression and debate.

—Thirty—

Board of Directors, SANSAD: www.sansad.org

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