Scholars (past and present) from the University of Oxford have brought out a statement to express their solidarity with JNU and the ongoing persecution of its student community.
They also air their protest at the use of institutional and state machinery to stifle dissent on campuses and the parochial interpretation of “nationalism’ per se.
The full text of the statement signed by more than 300 scholars is given below:
In solidarity with JNU: University of Oxford members, alumni
We, the undersigned members and alumni of the University of Oxford, stand firmly in solidarity with fellow students, teachers and scholars at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the ongoing persecution of the student community in JNU, in particular the arrest of JNU Students Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar under sedition charges.
We protest the use of institutional and state machinery to stifle dissent on campuses, and the attempt to persecute those whose views do not conform to the narrow narratives of ‘nationalism’, ‘nationhood’ and ‘Indian culture’ promoted and endorsed by the ruling party. We view the crackdown in JNU in a continuum with the use of state machinery to clamp down on dissenting views and ideologies on campuses, most prominently at the FTII, Jadavpur University, IIT-Madras and the University of Hyderabad (UoH).
We would like to point out that it was a similar witchhunt, backed by state authority, that led to the suicide of Dalit scholar and student leader of the Ambedkar Students' Association, Rohith Vemula. We also stand in solidarity with the ongoing rally hunger strike at UoH and the struggles of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, demanding justice for Rohith Vemula.
We are concerned that sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have been used to criminalise dissent. University campuses are meant to provide spaces for deliberation and even disagreement; the abuse of the law in order to stifle students’ voices is indicative of an authoritarian state’s attempts to ideologically capture the university space. Further, we believe that Section 124-A of the IPC, which codifies the law on sedition, is fundamentally anachronistic to a democratic state.
Even so, for a charge of sedition to be made out, the law requires that violence must necessarily follow subversive speech, which is conspicuously absent in this case. We are distressed by reported violence targeting students, professors and journalists on the premises of the Patiala House Court, both inside and outside the courtroom, on February 15 and 17, 2016.
We urge all responsible parties, including the police and court personnel, to fulfill their constitutional duty in ensuring a fair and secure trial. That this happened under the silent watch of the police and other authorities, is indicative of their complicity.
We are also concerned about the profiling and vilification of certain students by sections of the media; for instance, the irresponsible media reportage on JNU student Umar Khalid is a grave point of concern.
We condemn the continued police presence in the JNU campus. We appeal to the government and police to understand us, first, as a broad spectrum of students, who believe in different ideologies, but come together to demand the right to hold these independent beliefs without the threat of state sanctioned violence.