We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. We strongly condemn the arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful police action in violation of the University autonomy on February 9, 2016, where commotion between two groups of students from opposing political affiliations snowballed into an extremely disturbing set of events. We also strongly condemn the police inaction and the unprovoked instances of assault unleashed by lawyers on the journalists, students and professors, within and outside the court premises, on February 15, 2016.

We strongly condemn and demand that the wrongful charges of “SEDITION” be dropped against all the students (both arrested and absconding) for their alleged exercise of right to critique, question and disagree with the acts of the state. We demand the release of those arrested without any evidence to the contrary. The provision of sedition is a vestige of India’s colonial past. It is a draconian piece of legislation which was drafted to stifle any voices raised to the displeasure of the establishment. However, neither of the students’ speeches/sloganeering/inclinations, within the University premises, could have been brought under the ambit of sedition as contained in the Indian Penal Code. As the Supreme Court of India (the apex court in India) has clearly read down this penal provision by affording the most narrow and strict interpretation, we thereby strongly condemn the ensuing public discourse on social networks which is dangerously bordering on a culture of incitement induced public shaming.

We also strongly condemn the role of certain sections of the media in the outright slander, vilification and labelling of the students as “terrorists” and “anti-nationals” after relying on fabricated evidence. The discipline of verification is the cornerstone of journalism. The emergence of media trials in playing with populist sentiments and pronouncing verdicts with utmost impropriety is an alarming trend. We are also fully aware that these incidents are not unprecedented, thereby serving collusive political and other vested interests. Instances of Hyderabad Central University (HCU), Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), IIT-Madras, haven’t been surrendered to the fleeting public memory yet.

It is a matter of utmost disquiet to witness state complicity in criminalization of dissent. The rubric of Indian democracy is not conditional on any political or doctrinal patronage. As much as the current onslaught on fundamental liberties is an incursion into our academic spaces, it is also unmistakable as to how the state is derogating from its duties to safeguard these very liberties. Creative, dialectic and intellectual sovereignty should be the hallmark of every educational institution. Therefore, as beneficiaries and stakeholders of the academic community, we strongly condemn any and every act of the state amounting to such suppression by coercion.

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