Attack on freedom of expression in university campuses : Statements by Sanhati and JNU Teachers

April 12, 2010

The imposition of neoliberal economic policies by the Indian State since the early 1990’s has, much along expected lines, spelt disaster for the vast masses of the country. A key component of this paradigm has been the unprecedented levels of State-assisted resource grab by big Indian and foreign capital. Termed as the biggest resource grab since the time of Columbus by a government report, it has extended to arable land, forest land, water and resulted in forcibly cutting off access of the poor and marginalized sections to virtually all forms of common property resources. This, in addition to the five decade long development disaster of the Indian state has increased the economic vulnerability of the poor to unprecedented levels. In responding to the resistance mounted by poor people, especially adivasis and poor peasants, against this forcible dispossession and pauperization, the Government of India has opted for a military solution: Operation Green Hunt. It has chosen to wage war on the most economically vulnerable and socially disadvantaged sections of the Indian population, instead of launching a war on poverty, destitution, hunger and malnutrition.

Going hand in hand with this unstated and unjust war on poor people is a growing authoritarianism of the Indian State. Any and every dissenting voice is sought to be silenced, any opposition is sought to be crushed with force, dialogue and debate is sought to be replaced with repression. While the murder and rape of tribals continue in the “war zone” across the forested regions of Central India, any voice of opposition to this policy is brutally silenced: Binayak Sen was arrested and kept in Raipur jail for close to two years without any charges, Himanshuji’s ashram, the Vanavasi Chetna Ashram, was demolished in Chhattisgarh, human rights activists across the country are being daily harassed and intimidated by the police and intelligence agencies, Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) in Assam was harassed by the police, Dr. E Rati Rao, the vice-president of PUCL, Karnataka, has been charged with sedition, Prakash Korram of the Ekta Parishad was detained for several days in Gujarat. The list is growing at an alarmingly rapid rate.

The attack on the democratic rights of the people has now reached the university campuses of the country. It has been recently reported that legitimate political activity of students are coming under undue scrutiny, that the administrations of various universities are attempting to monitor and debar public meetings on “sensitive” political issues, that university teachers and students are being wilfully “picked up” by the police for interrogation. This is unacceptable, this cannot be allowed to continue.

We appeal to all democratic-minded people of India and the world to raise their voices against the unjust war of the Indian State and the concomitant attack on the democratic rights of the people. We must lend our support to the movement to protect the freedom of speech and expression, the right to democratic dissent.


Teachers’ Statement against censorship in JNU

Submitted to the Vice Chancellor of JNU

April 8, 2010

We, members of the teaching community of JNU, strongly object to the circular issued by the Associate Dean of Students (dated March 29, 2010) that requires students to seek permission one week in advance for organizing talks and events on hostel premises. More disturbingly, the proforma for seeking permission includes questions regarding the affiliation and name of the speaker if the event is to be followed by discussion, full details including producers, for film screenings, and states that “events that may be sensitive to national integration/national harmony and may have implications for national security will not be permitted.”

We object to the circular on two grounds: First, Provosts are not empowered to institute such sweeping changes without discussion in the wider JNU community. Second, this attempt to censor freedom of expression and intellectual activity on the JNU campus is unacceptable to us under any circumstances.

Free exchange of opinions, however controversial, is at the heart of any institution of modern learning, but especially of JNU, which was established precisely to promote “a democratic way of life” as well as “an awareness and understanding of social needs.” The circular will destroy the tradition of critical debate and discussion that has been such a special part of JNU culture and history.

JNU is a space where the freedom to debate censorship itself must be protected. This circular attempts to control the very freedom to question authority that it is our responsibility to ensure.

This circular must be withdrawn with immediate effect.

Endorsements received by Email
1. Romila Thapar
2. Amit Bhaduri
3. Gopal Guru
4. Prabhat Patnaik
5. Neeladri Bhattacharya
6. Zoya Hasan
7. CP Chandrasekhar
8. Chaman Lal
9. Jayati Ghosh
10. Tanika Sarkar
11. Pushpesh Pant
12. Anuradha Chenoy
13. Kamal Mitra Chenoy
14. Ranjani Mazumdar
15. Nivedita Menon
16. Ayesha Kidwai
17. AK Ramakrishnan
18. Valerian Rodrigues
19. Bhagat Oinam
20. Bimol Akoijam
21. GJV Prasad
22. Amitabh Mattoo
23. BS Chimni
24. Arun Kumar
25. Janaki Nair
26. Rohan D’Souza
27. Mohan Rao
28. Padmini Mongia
29. Rajarshi Dasgupta
30. Pratiksha Baxi
31. Naman Ahuja
32. Kavita Singh
33. Shukla Sawant
34. Ira Bhaskar
35. Parul Dave Mukherjee
36. G Arunima
37. KB Usha
38. Ajay Gudavarthy
39. Anupama Roy
40. Madhu Sahni
41. Radhika Singha
42. Geetha Nambissan
43. Happymon Jacob
44. Vikas Rawal
45. Rinku Lamba
46. YS Alone
47. Bishnupriya Dutt
48. Amita Singh
49. Alka Acharya
50. Rama Baru
52. Sima Baidya
53. Siddharth Mallavarapu
54. Renuka Singh
55. Rekha Kamat
56. Alka Acharya
57. Jayati Srivastava

For further information contact:

1. Nivedita Menon,
School of International Studies
Phone: 9971268730

2. Ranjani Mazumdar,
Associate Professor,
School of Arts and Aesthetics
Phone: 9818089519