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With Love From New York: Students Stand With ‘Courageous And Inspiring Protests At JNU’

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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.

[su_spoiler title=”Signatories” icon=”arrow”]Jasveen Sarna, BA Literary Studies, Eugene Lang College
Sabrina Garity, MFA Creative Writing Non Fiction
Melissa Guerrero, Eugene Lang College
Luis Herran Avila, PhD, Politics and History, The New School For Social Research
Joshua Lacle, BA, Theater, Eugene Lang College
Tamara Oyola-Santiago, Wellness and Health Promotion
Ana Miljak, BA Literary Studies, Eugene Lang College
Andrew P. Tucker, Design & Urban Ecologies
Evangeline Scazzero, Journalism+Design Junior, Eugene Lang College
Ryan Khosravi, BA, Culture and Media, Eugene Lang College
Masoom Moitra, Student Co- Chair, Social Justice Committee, MS Design and Urban Ecologies, Parsons School of Design
As a co-chair of the Social Justice Committee at The New School, I strongly condemn these actions. They not only have a grave impact on the lives of students who have directly been targeted by the government, they have a long-term impact on the future of institutions that are supposed to nurture and cultivate lovingly, the minds of students in the country. This is a massive betrayal. The concept of ‘sedition’ is obsolete and must be destroyed! This is an insult to the idea of a democracy!
Geeti Das, PhD Candidate, Politics, The New School For Social Research
The attacks on Rohith Vemula, MM Kalburgi, Kanhaiya Kumar, FTII, and JNU are the actions of those who respond to their own fear by trying to create it in others. No student should find themselves left with only the hope of “knowing other worlds” because the one in which they find themselves so devalues their brilliance and their humanity. A just and democratic society can have no reason to meet peaceful dissent with brute force.
Nihira Ram, Freshman, Eugene Lang College
Kumar Kartik Amarnath, MS, Design and Urban Ecologies; School of Design Strategies; Parsons School of Design
Jamie Piper, Screen Studies, Eugene Lang College, Sophomore
Aliyah Hakim, BA, Theater, Eugene Lang College
Mariana Bomtempo, School of Design Strategies
Gamar Markarian, MS Design and Urban Ecologies, School of Design Strategies, Parsons
Sascia Bailer, MA Theories of Urban Practice, Parsons
Nicholas Allanach, Dir. of Academic Operations (& alumnus, 2006)
Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Kelsey Podaras, Eugene Lang College
Adriana Herrera Perhamus, BA Culture and Media, Eugene Lang College
Silvia Resende Xavier, MS Design and Urban Ecologies, School of Design Strategies, Parsons School of Design
chris crews, Politics, New School for Social Research
An attack against one is an attack against all.
Katyayani Dalmia, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, New School for Social Research
FaDi Shayya, MA, Theories of Urban Practice
J. Ricky Price, PhD Candidate Politics, New School for Social Research
E Condon, BA/BFA dance/fine arts
oona sullivan, BA, Psychology, Eugene Lang College
Suhyun Choi, Fine Arts, Parsons School of Design
Rachel Heiman, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Horace Charles, Administrative Assistant, English Language Studies, NSPE (BA, 2015)
Luis L., Philosophy
Margarita Velasco, Politics, New School for Social Research (2008)
Daniel Younessi, PhD
Jawied Nawabi, MA in Economics (2008) and Ph.D in Sociology (2014)
Lopamudra Banerjee, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, New School for Social Research
Marielle Tejada Taveras, Sociology/Global Studies
Rishabh Kumar, PhD Economics, New School for Social Research
Tait Mandler, Design and Urban Ecologies, Parsons
Kieran Gannon, MA, Theories of Urban Practice
Jasmine Rault, Assistant Professor, Culture and Media, Eugene Lang College, The New School
Alexandria Eisenbarth, Ph.D., Economics, New School for Social Research
H Howell Williams, PhD candidate, New School for Social Research, Politics
Brandon Fischer, Staff – SPE – GLUE (alumnus, 2015)
Chelsea Ebin, PhD Politics, New School for Social Research
Joel de Lara, Philosophy
Issachar Curbeon Dieng, Global Studies
Johanna Oksala, Visiting Professor, Department of Politics, The New School for Social Research
Blair Bainbridge, MA, Anthropology
Samuel Miller, MA
Tamara Alvarez Fernandez, PhD Anthropology, New School for Social Research
Cagla Orpen, PhD student in Politics and History, New School for Social Research
Kevin Aportela-Flores, MA, Politics
Soheil Asefi, Graduate student, Politics department, and Independent journalist and scholar at The New School for Social Research
Michael Isaacson, Economics
Alix Jansen, MA Politics, New School for Social Research
Ilker Aslantepe, PhD, Economics, New School for Social Research
Jackie Vimo, PhD Candidate, Politics, New School for Social Research
Eli Nadeau, MA candidate, Politics 2016, MFA Creative Writing, 2013
Alexandra Délano, Assistant Professor of Global Studies
Susan Austin, Staff
Franziska König-Paratore, PhD
Eli Lichtenstein, MA in Philosophy
Greig Roselli, MA, Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Alex Altonji, MA Philosophy (2015)
Ramaa Vasudevan, Visiting Scholar
Sara Shroff, Phd Candidate, New School for Public Engagement
Veronica Sousa, MA, Anthropology
Julienne Obadia, Doctoral Candidate
Christopher DellaCamera, Journalism
Katherine Moos, PhD Student
Amanda Zadorian, Ph.D. Candidate, Politics, NSSR
Micha Steinwachs, BA (2015)
George Fisher, Part-time faculty, Mannes School of Music
The right to peaceful dissent without punishment or harassment should belong to all people in civilized society.
Rhea Rahman, PhD Candidate
Rachel Knopf Shey, Assistant Director Wellness and Health promotion, Student Health Services
Jonathan Bach, Associate Professor
Kemi Soyeju, M.A. Psychology
Douglas de Toledo Piza, PhD student, Sociology, New School for Social Research[/su_spoiler]

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  1. TheMythbuster2012

    First of all, how the hell is the Modi govt responsible for Rohith Vemula’s suicide?? Only because a BJP govt is in the centre? Why not also hold the state govt responsible? Plus, protesters openly calling for destruction of the Indian state is mere dissent to you? These leftists and separatists themselves create problems in the first place, attempting to destabilize India, and when the govt justifiably cracks down on them to maintain law and order, you people call the govt fascist and accuse it of suppressing dissent. I think these people were fooled by that New York Times editorial.
    I think we can safely say that India allows more dissent than your country does. For God’s sake, clean your own doormat before you complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof. If you protested shouting “Death to America” in Washington will your govt go soft on you? You’ll be questioned and detained by the FBI for several months. And no one will ever question the govt’s actions because its a question of your national security. And here you’re lecturing India on dissent.
    And how, by any stretch of the imagination is the right wing divisive in nature? All I ever hear this govt talking about is of development and of introducing policie etc. It is clearly Congress and the left wing who blatantly put certain communities on a pedestal and spread hate between communities. Saying Hindus bad- Muslims good, high caste people bad – Dalits good, rich people bad – poor people good. And BJP is the one doing divisive politics?
    Lastly, what is with this trend on blaming Modi for every single imperfection in the country? Anytime something goes wrong, blame Modi. Not a Sanghi or bhakt, but such trends of pointing fingers at solely the prime minister was never prevalent with any of the previous govts.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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