Thursday, February 25, 2016

ANVESHAN STATEMENT: In Solidarity with the Struggle against the Assault on JNU

The recent incidents of a police crackdown and the arrest of the Student Union President, Kanhaiyya Kumar, on charges of sedition, at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi are a shocking assault of the State on the ‘Freedom of Expression’ and the ‘Right to Dissent’. Universities are necessarily sites of dialogue and dissent, rethinking of ideas and philosophies and re-imagination of the people, society and nation. This is in spirit of the ethos of critical thinking, deeply embedded in the Constitution of the country and any attempt to stifle such a democratic culture through arrests of students without substantive evidence is grossly unconstitutional and guided by the draconian ideas of witch-hunting under McCarthyism, experienced in the US in the 1950s.

The events in JNU should not be viewed in isolation but are part of the larger ploy by the present ruling dispensation to destroy the culture within educational institutions of interrogating any form of exploitation and marginalization that exists within the country. Developments in recent past in FTII, IIT Madras, University of Hyderabad and many other institutions all point to the zeal with which the government and authorities have censored and brutalized students, including the ‘institutional murder’ of Rohith Vemula. JNU, in the heart of the Capital, has historically played a central role in questioning the establishment and regressive ideas in the society, ever since the days of the Emergency. The underlying attempt to muzzle all forms of dissent in the country will assume a loud and sinister message to all progressive voices, if such a censorship and sanitization of the ‘discourse’ can be successfully carried out in JNU.

Such destruction of critical thinking beyond doubt depletes the analytical rigour within our public universities and educational institutions and thereby erodes their academic standards. This serves the brazen interests of the international corporate capital which is seeking to gain a foothold in the education sector in the country, backed by the anti-people neo-liberal policies of the government.

In a multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic country like India, inspired by the spirit of the freedom struggle, plurality and tolerance has been crucial in the ‘making of the nation’ after independence. Such a nation-building exercise is necessarily a continuous process as newer and multiple, and often conflicting, imaginations of the ‘nation’ join the discourse on ‘nationalism’. Without such inclusiveness and dialogue, the question of language itself would have split the country in many different pieces immediately after independence. Unfortunately, the ruling BJP-led NDA government is adhering to a monolithic and ossified notion of ‘Hindu Nationalism’, propagated by the RSS fraternity, which never participated in the long struggles against British Imperialism. The proclamation of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ in a multi-religious country is hideously unconstitutional and potentially can divide the nation perpetually.

This frenzied debate led by the Hindutva brigade and its allies in the media on ‘who is an anti-national’, smacks of intolerant binaries and drastically curbs the space for dissent. Any dissent today is liable to face a lynch-mob, deeply intoxicated and drenched in a fascist ideology. Further, it also diverts the attention of the people from the question of development and marginalization, planks on which the Modi Government came to power in 2014. Failures in adopting pro-people development policies is being sought to be veiled by fascistic and hysterical propaganda based on false binaries.

Anveshan, as a group of academics and researchers, deeply condemns such fascist designs to divide the nation and the unconstitutional assault on the culture of debates and dissent. We express our solidarity with the students’ and teachers’ struggles in JNU for the unconditional release of the JNUSU President, dropping of sedition charges and against any witch-hunting of students engaged in peaceful dialogues and protests. We strongly stand committed to the principle of tolerance, the right to dissent, and for ‘Unity in Diversity’.


Abdul Rahman, Arindam Banerjee, Arjun Sengupta, Chirashree Dasgupta, Indrani Mazumdar, Indranil Mukhopadhyay, Jesim Pais, Jyotsna Singh, Neha Mishra, Rityusha Tiwary, Satyaki Roy, Sona Mitra, Surajit Das, Surajit Mazumdar, Valay Singh.

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