Saturday, January 11, 2020

A violent attack on academic freedom

A group of academics and campaigners strongly condemn the brutal assaults on students and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi Demonstrators attend a protest against Sunday’s attacks on students at JNU
Demonstrators attend a protest against Sunday’s attacks on students at JNU. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

We strongly condemn the violence against students and faculty staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, on 5 January by a gang of armed and masked rightwing thugs including many belonging to the ABVP, an outfit affiliated to India’s ruling BJP (Report, 7 January).

Shamefully, the Delhi police allowed the attackers into the campus unhindered, blocked the roads, facilitating the continuation of the attacks, and later allowed the armed thugs to leave under their protection. The JNU administration have, shockingly, remained silent. 

The attackers brutally assaulted students and academic staff and vandalised university property. There are multiple reports of hospitalisation and extremely serious injuries, including to student union president, Aishe Ghosh, and chair of the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Prof Sucharita Sen. Doctors and medical volunteers attempting to aid the victims were also attacked and their ambulance was smashed.

These events have come in the wake of brutal police violence against students in Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim universities, where peaceful protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens were taking place. This apparent targeting of dissenting student voices is occurring against an extremely disturbing background of sweeping repression accompanied by widespread attacks on minority communities.

In solidarity with students and faculty members of JNU, we demand that as a matter of urgency the perpetrators are brought to book, concerned authorities held accountable and the peaceful and vibrant democratic environment on campus for which JNU has long been known internationally is restored.

Prof Bhaskar Vira University of Cambridge, Prof Barbara Harriss-White Visiting professor, JNU, and Wolfson College, University of Oxford, Dr Kalpana Wilson Birkbeck, University of London, Dr Aditya Ray The Open University, Sarbjit Johal South Asia Solidarity, Prof Shirin Rai University of Warwick, Prof David Mosse Soas University of London, Satpal Muman Chair, CasteWatchUK, Santosh Dass, Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance Prof Valentina Vitali University of East London, Prof Julia O’Connell Davidson University of Bristol, Prof Katy Gardner London School of Economics and Political Science and 177 others

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