Statement on Violence against Students and Teachers in India
The Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) condemns in no uncertain terms the physical and legal attacks on teachers and students in India since the passing of the discriminatory Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019, and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that revokes special status to Kashmir in August 2019.
The Indian government has sanctioned or condoned unprecedented and brutal attacks on the academic community. Police have forcibly entered campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Aligarh Muslim University and targeted students irrespective of whether they were protesting or studying in the library. At Aligarh Muslim University, the police employed stun grenades that are commonly used in war, resulting in serious bodily harm, including a student losing his hand.
In other cases, the state has condoned mob violence against those protesting the CAA, including at Jawaharlal University. More recently, pro-CAA individuals shot at peaceful protesters in three separate incidents, one of them injuring a student from Jamia Millia Islamia University while the Delhi police watched on. Furthermore, students from Kashmir, studying in India, have been attacked, evicted from rental properties, or suspended from colleges on account of their Kashmiri identity and their dissent to the actions of the government.
The Indian state has also engaged in targeted attacks to silence dissent against government actions. Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Mysore University have been charged with sedition for speaking out against CAA or supporting the people of Kashmir. In the state of Karnataka, the police have been interrogating children of an elementary school for staging a play critical of CAA and Prime Minister Modi, and have arrested and booked for sedition a teacher and the mother of a 9 year-old who participated in the play.
Education teaches us to question authority and to dissent against injustice. This encourages invention, innovation, economic and social progress, but most importantly it keeps democracy alive. As teachers and scholars in the U.S. we are deeply disturbed by the way the Indian government is systematically undermining the fundamental principles of democracy and the university. We unequivocally stand with the academic community in India as it perseveres to keep these principles alive in a country that is often referred as the ‘largest democracy in the world’.
We strongly urge the Indian government to
- Immediately cease sanctioned violence by the police, and pro-CAA individuals and mobs whether in universities or in public spaces.
- Urgently act to hold accountable perpetrators of violence against students and other dissenters.
- Honor the rights of assembly, freedom of thought, speech and dissent, and academic freedom, which form the cornerstone of democracy and free academic inquiry.
- Create conditions in universities and schools where students, faculty and staff are not threatened or made to feel insecure due to their regional, religious, caste, gender or sexual identity.
The Steering Committee of the Union for Radical Political Economics