By The New School University, New York:
We, the undersigned, students, faculty, alumni, and staff at the New School University, New York, stand in solidarity with the students, staff, and faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in their protests against the militarization of the campus and suppression of dissent by anti-democratic and divisive Hindu nationalist groups allied with the Modi government.
We condemn the arrest and detention of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, the criminalization of peaceful demonstration and healthy debate through the use of anti-democratic sedition laws, and the surveillance, intimidation, harassment of and outright brutality and use of force against members of the JNU community.
We condemn the Modi administration’s part in the complex of factors that led Ph.D. student Rohith Vemula to decide to end his life; we condemn the use of party machinery to expel and intimidate minority and marginalized students who are already underrepresented and face constant discrimination in an Indian university system that largely maintains and consolidates the power of upper caste Hindu elites; we condemn the blatant complicity of the police and mainstream media and the inflammatory statements made by Arnab Goswami, among others; and we condemn this latest attack on academia that the state has also opportunistically used to draw attention away from Dalit struggle on campuses and its part in expelling Rohith Vemula.
We affirm a shared transnational struggle to bring to light and address long legacies of colonialism, marginalization and erasure in our scholarship, institutions, and communities. We find the Indian government’s use of colonial-era sedition laws deeply disturbing, and its use of anti-colonial rhetoric to demonize progressive politics manifestly hypocritical.
Recent statements by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of Education Smriti Irani are indicative of the fundamental opposition of the current regime to free thought and expression, and show the degree to which BJP politicians enjoy impunity for their part in the systematic suppression of dissent that the Modi administration and its associated complex of Hindu nationalist organizations has carried out since its rise to power. Student protests have been quashed, forestalled, and criminalized through the use of every tactic possible. ABVP chapters across campuses have orchestrated a concerted campaign of intimidation, aided by massive police complicity and the full support of state, police and media, to suppress talks, film screenings, and peaceful demonstrations, threaten and harass students, faculty and staff, and start smear campaigns condoning and inciting the use of violence against scholars deemed “anti-national”. The Modi government routinely targets scholars already made vulnerable by multiple axes of marginalization, seeking to silence their dissent at the expense of their safety and their lives.
The Modi government seeks to criminalize any disagreement with India’s undemocratic actions as “anti-national”. This “anti-nationalism” can only have meaning in relation to an imagined nation that is, at its core, fascist. Such a nation equates the peaceful expression of dissent with violence in order to justify its own brute force, creating a cycle that has no hope of ending when every avenue of democratic accountability is being systematically infiltrated or removed.
As members of a university that was founded on exile and resistance to fascism and that shares with JNU a fundamental commitment to justice, we stand with the courageous and inspiring protests at JNU and call on scholars and allies everywhere to do the same.
Featured image for representation only.