Stanford University, Palo Alto, California


21 February 2016

We, the undersigned students, alumni, and faculty of Stanford University, stand in solidarity with students and faculty of JNU. We strongly condemn the unconstitutional and undemocratic arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and the continuing police action on the JNU campus. We demand that the government release Kanhaiya Kumar immediately, and drop all charges against him. We demand the cessation of all legal proceedings against Umar Khalid, Rama Naga, Anant Prakash, Ashutosh Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya, and that they be provided security against the violence of the Hindu Right.

During the past week, we followed the state’s use of archaic colonial laws of sedition to clamp down on political dissent. We were dismayed by the JNU administration’s complicity in allowing the police to enter campus and search hostels goes against the autonomy of the university, which was designed precisely to ensure freedom of political dissent. The continuing action by the JNU administration against students reveals their complicity with the Hindu Right. The Indian mass media’s demonisation of student political activity has not only carried and propagated the state’s autocratic brief, but has granted legitimacy to the ensuing violence against students. The subsequent attacks on students and faculty at the Patiala House court by goons dressed as lawyers confirmed the nexus between the state, Hindu Right, and administrative bodies (such as the one at JNU university).

The events at JNU are not unique. They are one amongst a series of larger attempts to curb freedoms, by outlawing political organizations including those on campus, as well as slowly undermine central educational institutions which accelerates the shift towards privatisation of education. In Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest on the ludicrous charge of sedition, we hear echoes of the temporary derecognition of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT-Madras, and the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. In those instances too, we saw the presence of the state-Hindu Right-university nexus that curbed political freedom.

As our friends at the University of Chicago noted in their solidarity statement, the nationalism advocated by the Hindu Right is predicated on imagining an enemy. “Its political program imagines the citizen as upper caste, heterosexual, male, Hindu; its economic program necessitates a blind faith in neoliberalism; and its social program continually imagines an enemy – the Muslim, the Dalit, the Left.” It is this imagined “enemy” of the Hindu Right that faces the risk of being labelled “anti-national” every time there is political dissent. We protest the actions of the present BJP government because we do not agree with them that only upper-caste heterosexual, Hindu men are entitled to citizenship rights. This is a dire situation for us, the citizens of India, that demands we rally around the specific case of JNU even as we resist the larger project of the Hindu Right. We would do well to bear in mind Kanhaiya Kumar’s reminder that “we don’t need a certificate of patriotism from the RSS.”

As students and teachers, we value above all freedom of thought and action. We cherish the space for critical thinking, open discourse and political dissent that universities offer. Opening up room for disagreement and the free flow of ideas is not a by-product of the educational process, but its very essence.

We, the undersigned students, alumni, and faculty of Stanford University, stand in solidarity with the students and faculty of JNU.

Signed by,

Megha Patnaik, PhD Student, Department of Economics

Mayukh Samanta, MS&E alumnus, Class of 2015

Jisha Menon, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dept. of Theater and Performance Studies

Vivek V. Narayan, Graduate Student, Dept. of Theater and Performance Studies

Thomas Blom Hansen, Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor in South Asian Studies and Professor in Anthropology; Director, Stanford’s Center for South Asia

Sadhana Senthilkumar, Undergraduate Student

Siddharth Patel, Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Rush Rehm, Professor, Dept. of Theater and Performance Studies, and Classics; and Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater (SRT)

Trisha Shetty, Undergraduate Student

Shiv Vadivelalagan, Dept. of International Policy Studies

Anna Schultz, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, Dept of Music

Anunay Kulshrestha, Undergraduate Student

Linda Hess, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Religious Studies,

Luladay Price, Undergraduate Student

Anubha Anushree, Dept. of History

Japsimran Kaur, Undergraduate Student

Milind Rao, Graduate student, Department of Electrical Engineering

Adeel Arif, MS, MS&E ’12

Asha Chigurupati, Stanford Alumnus, Class of 2015

Melanie Rodrigues, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Surgery

Afroz Zain Algiers, PhD Student, Civil & Environmental Engineering

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