On 9 July, 2014 the well-known historian Dr. Mridu Rai was scheduled to deliver the Annual Pandit Rughonath Vaishnavi Lecture at a hotel in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. She was invited by a noted Valley-based human rights group, Coalition of Civil Society (CCS),to deliver a talk on the theme: “Languages of Violence, Languages of Justice: The State and Insurgent Kashmir”. As a widely published scholar of Kashmiri history and politics (Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights and the History of Kashmir (Princeton University Press, 2004), undoubtedly Dr. Rai was one of the best suited to speak on the complex state of affairs in the Valley.
Unfortunately, the lecture remained undelivered. Rather, it had to be cancelled following the imposition of Section 144, CrPC by the state police. The police said that for meetings to be held in public places by NGOs such as CCS, prior permission from the state administration was necessary. And since the CCS and the hotel had sought no such permission, Dr. Rai was not to be allowed to speak. The gag order issued by the state administration violated not only the right to freedom of speech of Rai but is an assault on the right to intellectual and academic freedom of individuals. The reasons cited to halt the event are at best spurious. Who has heard of section 144 being imposed inside buildings?
Rai’s forced silence adds to the culture of intolerance that is fast taking roots in contemporary India. JTSA unequivocally condemns the act of the J&K police. It strongly asserts that all citizens, scholars and others alike, have the right to be intellectually free.
Manisha Sethi, Ahmad Sohaib, Nabanipa Bhattacharjee, Sanghamitra Misra, Tanweer Fazal, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Ambarien Al Qadar, Adil Mehdi, M. Sultan Bhatt, Manoj Jena, Mona Das, Rahul Govind and others for jamia teachers’ solidarity association
10 July 2014.