Hindu radical nationalist organizations backed by India’s current ruling party are attacking students and professors more and more brazenly. Professors and students are being beaten, attacked, and threatened. Lately, they have also started attacking public gatherings including seminars, documentary screenings, and lectures. This has created an environment of terror among the professors who can’t even take their classes comfortably.
It is recognized all over the World that a ‘University’ must have full freedom for the pursuit of knowledge. Yet, inquiry, challenge, and discussion, the processes that are vital to any intellectual pursuit, are systematically threatened by violent attacks and various other means in India today.
“There is a new climate of fear in India — about speaking freely on some subjects. Universities are imposing prohibitory rules on teachers and students so that they can’t express themselves on some subjects.” - Amartya Sen, Economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize. “Free speech in Indian universities under threat” - Amnesty International India, an NGO focused on Human Rights.
Why should Vancouver Academic Community care about it?
The religious fundamentalist organizations are already active in UBC and SFU’s partner universities. This group is growing and spreading into India’s top academic institutions, which are potential partners of Canadian Universities in future. By signing this petition, we not only show solidarity with our Indian fellows but we are also ensuring the safety of the students and faculty.
How Can We Make A Change?
We are privileged, being a part of the great institutions of Vancouver, which are well known at international level. Due to this, it is quite possible that the government of India will pay attention to this petition, and thus ensure the safety of students and faculty in India and also maintain the democratic values like academic freedom, freedom of speech in Indian Universities. We, members of the academic community in Vancouver, British Columbia, deplore these attacks on the freedom of the academic space in India. Many of us are engaged in studies related to India, have direct connections with Indian universities, and are engaged in academic exchange programs. We express our solidarity with students and faculty at Indian universities and demand that the Government of India takes necessary measures to end the current violence and suppression of freedom of inquiry and discussion in the universities.
Following is the list of attacks by far-right radical nationalist groups on scholars, professors, and students:
January 2016: On January 17, Lower caste scholar Rohith Vemula, 26-year-old Ph.D. student belonging to lower socioeconomic strata (a Dalit) of society, was found hanging in his hostel room at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, after he was suspended from student’s hostel. He was a member of the Ambedkar Student Association (ASA) and active in supporting social justice causes. Radical far-right group, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (known as ABVP), attacked the screening of film Muzzaffarnagar Baaqui Hai, which is on the violence against Muslims in UP that left many dead and thousands displaced in 2013. Rohith along with others marched against the ABVP’s attack. Some false charges by ABVP and pressure from the union ministers of Labour and Human Resource Development in the BJP (ruling political party in India) government led the Vice Chancellor of the university to expel Rohith and four other members who participated in the protest from the university. University administration also evicted them from the hostel and banned them from the use of campus facilities. Rohith also lost his research stipend. In protest, the expelled students and their supporters slept in the open outside the gates of the university and went on a hunger strike. Rohith managed to get into a friend’s room in the hostel and hanged himself, leaving a suicide note expressing his ambition to be a writer and his profound alienation in a society that had lost all authenticity.
August 2015: M.M Kalburgi, a progressive thinker, and also a former vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, Karnataka, India was assassinated.
August 2016: On August 27, Prof. H.S Sabharwal died after being beaten by hoodlums allegedly belonging to the BJP’s (current ruling party of India), student wing.
Oct 2016: Najeeb Ahmed, a student, has been missing since Oct 15, 2016, after he had an altercation with a member of ABVP, the student wing of Prime Minister Modi’s Political party.
Feb 2016: JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, and other students were arrested on charges of sedition, on the basis of a doctored video for organizing an event on Capital Punishment.
March 2017: March 13, JNU scholar, Muthukrishnan (known as Krish Rajini), 27 years old, an M.Phil student, a Dalit, committed suicide. Part of his last Facebook post says, “When equality is denied everything is denied”, and criticizes JNU’s admission policies.
February 2017: On February 21, a seminar on “Cultures of Protest” at DU’s Ramjas College was violently attacked.
February 2017: On February 22, the students and the professors of Delhi University were attacked, English Professor Prasanta Chakravarty was severely injured.
February 2017: A 20-year-old, first-year female student, Gurmehar Kaur, received threats of death, and rape, after she started a campaign against these violent attacks, on social media.
February 2017: Rajshree Ranawat, an associate professor of English at JNVU (Jai Narayan Vyas University) Jodhpur, Rajasthan, was suspended by the university’s syndicate on February 16, for organizing a seminar on ‘History Reconstrued through Literature: Nation, Identity, Culture’. It affiliates for inviting Nivediata Menon, a feminist writer and a professor of political thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The university administration filed a police complaint against Professor Menon for “anti-national” comments at the seminar and suspended Professor Ranawat.
(Once upon a time — in 1978 to be precise — I had written a poem for a selfless communist who had taught the tribal people of Wayanad in Kerala to stand up and fight for their basic human rights , and was killed by the police in a fake encounter. Later the police constable who had shot him in cold blood, bitten by remorse, confessed to his crime and exposed the police lie that the revolutionary had been killed in an encounter. His name was Comrade Varghese and the adivasis addressed him as Peruman, meaning the Great Man or Mahatma. Now the present rulers of Kerala — who also claim to be communists — and whose post-Emergency ascendancy to power had something to do with the resentment that followed the murder of Varghese and who have turned Che Guevara into their poster-boy have informed the court that Varghese was a rioter, dacoit and criminal wanted in many cases and the police had rightly killed him in an ‘Encounter’. Here is an English version of that tribute to a ‘criminal and dacoit’ I had written four decades ago. (I wrote another poem, Enthinu Veendum, (Why Again) after the confession of that police constable : I do not have a translation of it yet.)
This evening two new stars
rose over the Brahmagiri hills.
Once they were a man’s eyes.
This evening the drops of the first rain
drenched our ballads of heroism.
Once they were a man’s words.
The first witnesses to this resurrection
was a wind descending the valley
and a squirrel in the woods of Tirunelli.
A confused lamb grazing the quiet meadows
of Panavalli stared in awe at the
heavy footsteps following her.
A lean dark Paniya tribal girl
picking tea leaves that brim with
the valour of her ancestors smiled
in recognition on seeing the familiar
handsome figure of the Man on the Cross.
Now a determined farmer growing uneasy gold
on the banks of Tejaswini raises his head
hearing your voice trembling with love.
You initiate the fishermen’s children
on the banks of Kaveri writing for them
their first letters in your luminous blood.
You suddenly appear behind the awakened
miners of Rajhara and gently whisper
in their keen ears: Comrade!
On the blood-throne of the Naga hills
a guerrilla fighter surprised by an arm’s warmth
on his shoulder kisses your long shade
to forget his weariness. The copper ores
of Venezuela, those frozen clots of Indian blood,
flush at the touch of your passionate breath.
You light up the eyes of the wild cat
In the tobacco plantations of Brazil.
The guards of the White House get perplexed
at the sight of a lean Malayali with a flag
and a gun bursting forth from nowhere
to lead an Afro-American demonstration.
They find you mourn the retreating spring
in the Red Square and Tiananmen, hugging
the betrayed offspring of revolutions and
shouting at the new Tsars: ‘You, cheats!
Vietnam sets you brooding.
You come back from your globetrotting
to listen to the nervous tolling of the church-bells.
Priests cover their eyes with holy mantles
and lock the doors while scared rulers
strengthen their security.
And you, you give the blind the eyes of history,
rouse the dead with the victim’s desperate courage,
walk undaunted on the sea of endless pain,
turn the water of timidity into the wine of hope,
baptise the young in self-knowledge,
and raise your whip against the merchants of death.
You open your heart and the dried up rivers
of love that unites the oppressed overflows,
your smile welds together parted ways.
You learn, you teach, you are betrayed.
Your followers draw lots on your clothes.
Yet we discover you again
in the green searing pungency of our pepper,
in the juicy sweetness of our sugar cane,
the liquid lust of our coffee,
in the dancing silver of our streams,
in the frozen gold of our clay.
We know you are back from the cross
not for forty days of preaching
and an ascension spoiled by melodrama.
You won’t be appeased by olive branches
nor by golden chalices. You will be
stopped neither by black hosannas
nor by stone-crosses. You have come
to stay the glory of every song,
to resound from drums and trumpets
to leap up from flutes and lyres,
to live forever, to struggle,
forever to lead
We are all pained when an Indian engineer is gunned down and another injured in US in the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance created by the utterances of Trump who has ordered an end to immigration from seven ‘Islamic’ countries and building a wall to stop immigration from neighbouring Mexico. It is this Trump model patriotism which is in action in US threatening the many millions of not only Latinos and Muslims, but also Indians. When we are hurt about actions of Trump, are we really feeling hurt about the spreading fast of such extreme chauvinism, hatred and intolerance around the world under growing number of ultra rightist leaders coming to power in increasing number of countries? Cannot we see that what is happening in JNU and DU now and many other places earlier, or more or less in the country as a whole, as a RSS model extension of Trump’s hate politics? It is high time we rise up against these forces who create the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance, who question the patriotism of Gulmehr Kaur and threaten her in most vulgar forms.
In Kerala also the traders association has decided to stop the sale of these MNC products and the state committee of the Party has come out in support of it calling on the people to boycott all products of these MNCs
This is the agenda of Trump when he repeats deportation threats among immigrants. The root cause of the global refugee crisis and forced migration of unemployed from plundered regions is the US led wars of aggression, destabilization, the neoliberal policies and the corporate hegemony imposed over world people. It is the same case in countries under neocolonial domination also. Concealing this, communal hatred is spread and state terror is intensified to divert people’s attention. Utilizing the modern technological advances in the communication fields, progressive ideas are suppressed and reactionary ideas and culture are spread for achieving this. Even while Trump’s policies are going to affect the millions of Indian origin employees in the US, the Hindutua forces are eulogizing him because of his attack on Muslims, forgetting that it is the US administration which trained, funded and unpeashed the Islamic fundamentalist forces to serve its hegemonic plans in the Muslim countries. It is the task of the progressive forces to expose the real economic agenda of Trumps and Modis and their programs for advancing it through the spreading of hate campaign and by fascicizing the state forces
BHANGAR: The ruling Trinamool took a month to hold its first public meeting after the Bhangar killings on 17th Feb, keeping local MLA and minister Abdur Rezzak Molla and his predecessor Arabul Islam away from the gathering. Senior Trinamool leaders — Subrata Bakshi, Sovan Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim and Mukul Roy — made a desperate attempt to build bridges with the villagers yet to get over the trauma of police repression on January 17. Yet, there were few people from the affected villages — a reason why the Trinamool meeting was held at Shyamnagar Bazar, five kilometres away from the power project site at Machhibhanga village.
Sensing the mood, Trinamool minister and in charge of the party’s South 24 Parganas unit Sovan Chatterjee began with a conciliatory note. “I have not come here to argue for the power project. I have come here to talk about Bhangar’s overall development. We are not going to do anything by force. The government will speak to the people of Bhangar over the power project. Work for the project will begin only if people want it,” Chatterjee said. The message didn’t go down well among the villagers. “Why is the minister talking in ifs and buts when Bhangar villagers want the project scrapped? The high-tension power lines have already affected our agricultural lands. Land prices are falling. We don’t want the project,” said Shiekh Ahidul from Khamarait village.Chatterjee, however, didn’t miss out to give a veiled threat to Ahidul and his ilk for coming in the way of Bhangar’s development. Without making a mention of the power project Chatterjee said: “I apologise if we have brought any distress to the people. Our CM has already said that the power project won’t proceed if people don’t want it. But we won’t tolerate those who are trying to break peace in Bhangar. Some such forces — CPM and Maoists — are instigating villagers to derail the development roadmap. Don’t take our patience for all these days as our weakness.”
Minister Firhad Hakim saw the Bhangar episode as a “big conspiracy” against Mamata Banerjee’s development mission. Trinamool vice-president Mukul Roy wondered why villagers took the protest path four years after 40 bighas of land were purchased for the power project.
Monotosh Chakraborty, Times of India, 17th Feb
Taking cognizance of media reports and multiple complaints and submissions from WSS and other human rights groups, the NHRC conducted its own investigation in March 2016 into complaints of mass rapes and sexual violence against Adivasi women by police forces during search and combing operations in the remote villages of Peddagellur, Bellam Nendra and Kunna.
The NHRC investigation team met and recorded the statements of 16 women who had filed FIRs of rape, sexual assault and physical violence. The team also looked into the systematic hounding and intimidation of activists, lawyers and media professionals who were bringing these incidents to light, by the police and vigilante groups under the direct patronage of IG Sri Kalluri. A follow-up investigation in January 2017 recorded the statements of 20 more women also filed FIRs of sexual violence ranging from mass rapes to sexual assault of minor girls and pregnant women.
In its landmark order of 7 January 2017, the NHRC held the state government vicariously responsible for the egregious violations of human rights in Bastar. The strongly-worded order validated the contention that sexual violence was being used as a weapon in the state’s “war against Maoists” in Bastar. The NHRC order also pulled up the state government for its failure to provide the mandatory compensation to the complainants and for not registering cases under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Defying strictures by the Supreme Court and the NHRC, Sri Kalluri publicly announced the launch of “Mission 2017”, an all-out vendetta against all those who were calling the state to account. Adivasi leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, fact-finding teams and journalists were targeted, hounded and threatened by the police and police-sponsored vigilante groups. The intention was clearly to ensure that there are no witnesses to the gross violations of the human rights of Adivasi citizens in the war against Maoists in Bastar.
Senior officials of the state government finally appeared before the NHRC on 30 January 2017 to answer for their failure to ensure the rule of law in Bastar, even as human rights activists and citizens across the country rallied in support of researcher Bela Bhatia after she was attacked by goons from AGNI, a vigilante group promoted by the police. The closed-door meeting continued for several hours as complainants waited anxiously outside. While celebrating these developments, democratic forces should be sharply aware that this is only the first step in the long road to restoring peace, justice and the rule of law in Bastar. WSS will continue to mobilise public attention while pursuing our complaints and submissions in cases currently before the NHRC. The struggle for removal of para military forces and for restoring democratic atmosphere in the state should be continued.