University students in New Delhi under attack

FEBRUARY 13, 2016

We, the undersigned, (educators, professors, intellectuals, writers and artists), are shocked by the appalling conduct of Delhi Police at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi yesterday. We also condemn the irresponsible sloganeering by some people at the fringes of a gathering on the JNU campus to mark the third anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru. We believe that such calls to ‘war, until the destruction of India’ erode the gravity of any serious discussion on any political question, be it capital punishment, human rights or even the question of self-determination. Such conduct is shameful, regardless of who does it, and deserving of the sharpest criticism.

That said, the only way to counter such incidents, when they occur, is through a deepening of dialogue, not through police action. The police has no business to enter places of learning and harass students (including students who were clearly trying to defuse the situation and to take a stand against the irresponsible elements who gave the objectionable slogans) when there had been no breach of peace.

We condemn the arrest of Kanhaiyya Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union on trumped up charges of sedition and demand that he be released immediately. Kanhaiyya’s public statements, which are widely available, clearly show that sedition is the last thing that you can charge him with. The University Authorities must take steps to ensure that the witch hunt that is ensuing against other students must also cease immediately. We are saddened by the new JNU Vice Chancellor’s readiness to submit to the diktats of the police, and we condemn the totally outrageous statements by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and the Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani which virtually declare war on universities as spaces for dissent and debate.

We demand an unconditional withdrawal of police personnel from campuses, and reiterate our support and solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of JNU, and with students everywhere in India who are pursuing a courageous resistance against the ongoing assault on higher education unleashed by the BJP government.

Ashis Nandy, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi

Bharti Kher, Artist, Delhi

Debjani Sengupta, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indraprastha College, Delhi University

Gauri Gill, Artist, Delhi

Gayatri Sinha, Curator, Delhi

Geeta Kapur, Curator, Delhi

Iram Ghufran, Filmmaker, Delhi

Jeet Thayil, Poet, Delhi

K. Satchidanandan, Poet, Delhi

Lawrence Liang, Alternative Law Forum, Bangaluru

Moinak Biswas, Professor, Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Nandini Datta, Associate Professor, Miranda House, Delhi University

Neha Choksi, Artist, Mumbai

Pallavi Paul, Artist/Filmmaker, Delhi

Parnal Chirmuley, Associate Professor, Centre of German Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

Rajarshi Dasgupta, Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

Rajeev Bhargava, Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi

Ravi Sundaram, Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi

Romila Thapar, Historian, Emeritus Professor, Jawharalal Nehru University

Sahej Rehal, Artist, Mumbai

Sabina Kidwai, Associate Professor, AJ Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi

Sabeena Gadihoke, Associate Professor, AJ Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi

Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, Delhi

Sarnath Banerjee, Artist, Delhi / Berlin

Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi

Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, Fellow, Centre for the Studies of Social Sciences, Kolkata

Shohini Ghosh, Professor, AJ Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist, Raqs Media Collective, Delhi

Subodh Gupta, Artist, Delhi

Vivan Sundaram, Artist, Delhi

 

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