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Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
Friday, 05 May 2017 13:36

International Call: Far-Right Organizations are Attacking Students and Professors in India

FAR-RIGHT Hindu political groups have been emboldened, with vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands ever since Narendra Modi came to power in India. Systematic attacks by radical Hindu mobs on secular writers, progressive thinkers, filmmakers, and intellectuals have increased in India. Modi has kept quiet on this rising intolerance, which has further encouraged the violent mobs. Now, such violence has entered India’s well-known universities too.

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. 

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