Students and Faculty members of University of British Columbia stand in solidarity with JNU

We, the undersigned students and teachers of University of British Columbia extend our solidarity and resoundingsupport to the students, faculty, staff, and allies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India, Hyderabad University, and other institutions where students’ rights to assemble, engage in debate, and express dissent are being denied. We strongly condemn the arbitrary and anti-democratic actions of the Indian State targeting students on campus and the onslaught on the elected Student’s Union.We demand an immediate withdrawal of all frivolous charges of sedition against the President of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, activist Umar Khalid, and all other students, as well as an end to the campaign of harassment against JNU students.

A very disturbing pattern has emerged at institutions of higher learning in India. There was a heavy-handed crackdown on JNU studentsimmediately after a student-organized event to observe the third anniversary of the state execution of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri surrendered militant.Earlier there were mass protests of students atHyderabad University against the death of RohithVemula, a bright PhD student and activist from a Dalit background who faced harassment and victimisation by the university administration under pressure of BJP, the ruling party at centre. We also observe an ongoing students’ movement called “Occupy UGC,” that has emergedagainst thechoking of funding for higher education across the country.

Students who express dissent are being targeted and condemned. RohithVemula and his comrades in Hyderabad University were branded as “anti-national” for their opposition to the hanging of YakubMemom.Similarly the student organisers of Afzal Guru’s event and the entire JNU campus, are being branded as “anti-national” and viciously attacked.

This criminalisation of dissent in universities undermines the autonomy of institutions of higher education and attacks the founding principles of democracy. Universities are spaces for critical thinking and investigation: freedom of speech is crucial to what they do. Suppressing such spaces and voices with the brutal exercise of state power is unhealthy for a society, and dangerous for democracy.

On this International solidarity Day for JNU, as the students and teachers of JNU are marching on the streets of Delhi to demand Justice from Indian Parliament, we at the University of British of Columbia in Vancouver stand with them in support and solidarity. We demand:

Removal of sedition and other charges from all JNU students and release the arrested students.

Scrapping of the sedition law (Sec 124A IPC).

Enactment of a “Rohith Act” for ending caste-based discrimination in educational institutions.

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