Jan Swasthya Abhiyan’s Statement of Solidarity with JNU Students

We, the undersigned, representing individuals and networks concerned with public health in this country, wish to express our solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and to underscore their demands for fair treatment by their varsity.

Why should health activists support students on a hunger strike in protest against their treatment in a university? Because the principles on which this fast has been instituted – of democracy, academic freedom, the right to dissent and to fair treatment – are dear to us and we feel, must be defended by all.

The treatment meted out against leaders of the Students Union, the student body, and the Teacher’s Association at JNU is both disproportionate and reactionary, and makes light of a growing crisis across universities in the country and beyond.

Students and young people across our country feel unsupported, and worse, targeted by the very institutions that exist for their development. This is driving a number of them- as those in JNU and other institutions – to depriving their bodies in protest through hunger strikes. In some, more dire cases, circumstances are compelling our young people to self-destruction. Suicide is the leading cause of death among India’s youth, an absolutely tragic sign of defiance against the injustices of society today.

As people concerned about the health of this nation and our people, we find this to be both alarming and avertable.  Students – in JNU and nation-wide– should be cherished and nourished, their views and concerns heard, debated, and negotiated – not quashed, neglected, or punished.

Indeed, the very foundation of scientific research and discovery – in health and beyond – is premised on the principles of open debate, intellectual freedom, and academic exchange. If we are to secure the health and well-being of our nation, we cannot allow this to be vitiated.

As people from the health field, we know the value of solidarity, of working across constituencies in the service of social justice, democracy and freedom, as we all stand to gain from their preservation and promotion. We therefore stand in solidarity with JNU students and call upon:

JNU authorities to heed students demands and hereafter, to constructively and transparently engage with students and teachers.

the Ministry of Human Resource Development to focus on the development of higher education, instead of its current preoccupation with sifting students into piles of nationalists and anti-nationalists.

the Indian Media to exercise its rights and responsibilities and ensure fair, balanced, and accurate reportage of the goings on in JNU and other academic institutions, and to end its unwarranted blackout of these and other critical struggles of democracy in our country.

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