We Stand with JNU: Solidarity Statement from Academics at the University of Warwick

We, the undersigned, wish to express our solidarity with the ongoing student struggle at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India. In doing so, we wholeheartedly condemn the extra-constitutional detention of the JNU Students’ Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and seven other students on February 9, 2016. Universities should be places of academic freedom where dissent and critical thinking must not only be tolerated but should be actively encouraged. The students who have been charged with sedition (a colonial-era relic that the Supreme Court of India itself has attempted to weaken) for questioning the Indian state’s controversial execution of Afzal Guru, the man accused in the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, breached no law, and are being illegally detained. Credible news reports from India’s leading television channels and newspapers have confirmed that the police action, and subsequent occupation of the university by police, was spurred on by the right-wing students group, the ABVP, that seems to have a direct line of influence with the ruling BJP in central government.

Since the February 9 incident, other students and faculty of JNU have been intimidated and beaten up, and journalists have been threatened and assaulted. Further exacerbating the attacks, on 15 February 2016, JNU students and faculty, along with at least ten journalists, were violently attacked by lawyers and a legislator from the ruling party when they were peacefully attending court in support of Kanhaiya Kumar’s hearing. All of this amounts to one of the most concerted and vicious projects of undermining not just one of India’s leading universities, but of creating a widespread culture of intolerance and state-sanctioned violence and orchestrating an assault on public education. The attack on JNU comes on the heels of what is being termed the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, a dalit student at the University of Hyderabad, and the concerted attacks on dalit students there, also in the name of a manufactured patriotism in which any questioning of the state’s role in entrenching caste and class hegemony is rendered “anti-national”.

We want to assure the students, staff and faculty of JNU that they are not alone in their struggle. We, at the University of Warwick, are part of a growing global movement that seeks to condemn and resist the vicious attack on democratic norms, academic freedom and political dissent at JNU and in other universities globally.

Dr. Rashmi Varma, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Prof. Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Dr. Aditya Sarkar, History
Dr. Goldie Osuri, Sociology
Dr. Sarah Hodges, History
Prof. Shirin Rai, Politics and International Studies
Dr. Bishnupriya Gupta, Economic
Prof. Gurminder Bhambra, Sociology
Dr. Silvija Jestrovic, Theatre Studies
Dr. Milija Gluhovic, Theatre Studies
Prof. Benita Parry, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Prof. Thomas Docherty, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Shrikant Botre, PhD candidate, History
Divya Rao, PhD candidate, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Dr. Emma Bird, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Reva Yunus, PhD candidate, Sociology
Sourit Bhattacharya, PhD candidate, English and Comparative Literary Studies
Prof. Janelle Reinelt, Theatre and Performance Studies
María Estrada Fuentes, PhD Candidate, Theatre and Performance Studies
Prof. Ann Stewart, Law
Dr. Rebecca Williams, History
Dr. Susan Haedicke, Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies
Dr. Karl Schoonover, Film and Television Studies
Somak Biswas, PhD candidate, History
Dr. Helen Wheatley, Film and Television Studies
Dr. Laura Schwartz, History
Dr. Silvija Jestrovic, Theatre and Performance Studies
Lewis Smith, PhD candidate, Department of History
Prof. Jim Davis, Theatre and Performance Studies
Prof David Hardiman, History
Prof Abdul Paliwal, Law

Contact address:
Dr. Rashmi Varma
Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL

Email: Rashmi.Varma@warwick.ac.uk

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