Message of Solidarity from University of Pittsburgh

Statement of Solidarity: University of Pittsburgh

We the undersigned students and workers of University of Pittsburgh stand firmly in solidarity with the students, teachers, and scholars of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in their struggle to safeguard their right to dissent, right to autonomy, and right to freedom from police terror. We particularly condemn the criminalization of the five students, including the JNUSU presidentKanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Rama Naga and Ashutosh on grounds of sedition.
We see the crackdown on the students of JNU in the context of broad-scaleorganized violence by Hindu nationalist groups on different campuses in India today.

We condemn the now established pattern of the state’s violent incursion into academic campuses, quickly turning spaces of thought and debateinto militarized ground. This has been the case in Jadavpur University in 2014 and Film and Television Institute of India in 2015.

We are extremely concerned that the charge of sedition has been brought against university students. Universities are spaces of critical thinking and the abuse of law to force students to conform to ideas of “nation,” “nationalism” and “Indian-ness” as prescribed by a ruling party is an authoritarian effort to destroy such spaces. Moreover, we think Section 124-A (sedition) of Indian Penal Code is one of the worst remnants of the British Raj and is incompatible with any democratic state. Even so, for a charge of sedition to be made, there must be violence following subversive speech, which was conspicuously absent in this case.
We are proud of the resilience shown by the students and teachers of JNU in the face of state terror. We are also humbled by the responses of various campuses in India to the incident, which have quickly turned it into a nationwide struggle. We especially want to commend the Joint Action Committee of Social Justice at University of Hyderabad demanding justice for RohithVemula in aligning their struggle with that of the struggle on JNU campus.

These protests tell us that there is a sizeable section of the Indian population to whom the voices of RohithVemula, Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid matter. Vemula, a PhD student and leader of Ambedkar Students’ Association, was born a Dalit to a mother who was sold into slavery; Kumar, whose mother, an Anganwadi worker with a wage of Rs. 3000/mth (less than $50) is the sole breadwinner of the family; and Khalid, born into a family of Maharashtrian Muslims and studying adivasi struggles in central India;all three are articulating their dreams of a future India. We stand by the efforts of our colleagues at JNU and other campuses resisting the state machinery’s attemptsto stifle these voices.
In this spirit we demand the Vice Chancellor act on behalf of the students whom he is sworn to protect, safety of Kanhaiya Kumar in police custody is ensured, all charges against the five students of JNU be dropped, and the government and the ruling party cease their witch hunt against individuals who do not conform to their ideals.

Signed in personal capacity:
Liam O’ Loughlin, Department of English
Titas Chakraborty, Department of History
Benjamin Barson, Department of Music
Kevin McGinnis, Department of History
Marcus Rediker, Department of History
Katherine Parker, Department of History
NeepaMajumdar, Department of English and Film Studies
KuhuTanvir, Department of English
Neha Dhole, Department of Anthropology
Isaac Curtis, Department of History
Caitlin Schroering, Department of Sociology
Tyler Bickford, Department of English
Adelina Stefan, Department of History
Mohammad Golam NabiMozumder, Department of Sociology
Aura Sofia Jirau-Arroyo, Department of English
Patrick Beckhorn, Department of Anthropology
Benjamin S. Case, Department of Sociology
Jesse Olsavsky, Department of History
OgnjenKojanic, Department of Anthropology
Kai Pang, Department of Economics
Sarah Hakimzadeh, Department of English
Andrew E. Behrendt, Department of History
Jacob Pomerantz, Department of History
Hillary Lazar, Department of Sociology
Jonathan Sherry, Department of History
ShaliniPuri, Department of English
YevanTerrien, Department of History
Jessica Fitzpatrick, Department of English
SreemoyeeDasgupta, Department of English
Sagnika Chanda, Department of English
Matthew Drwenski, Department of History
Hatem Hassan, Department of Sociology
Daniel Burridge, Department of Sociology
George Weddington, Department of Sociology
Colin MacCabe, Department of English
Laura C. Brown, Department of Anthropology
Anika JugovicSpajic, Department of Anthropology
Chandralekha Singh, Department of Physics and Astronomy

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