We, the undersigned students and faculty of Grinnell College, strongly condemn the arbitrary, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic actions of the BJP/RSS/ABVP/Delhi Police nexus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus. We demand an immediate end to all police presence on campus, a withdrawal of all frivolous charges against the President of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, activist Umar Khalid, and other students, as well as an end to the campaign of harassment against JNU students.

This crackdown comes on the heels of a protest on the third anniversary of the state execution of Afzal Guru, mass mobilizations in response to the death of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad University, and resistance to the slashing of funding for higher education across the country. These and other agitations demonstrate the connection of the silencing of dissent on university campuses like JNU to the larger capitalist-Hindutva hegemony imposed by the Indian state across the country. Just as Rohith Vemula and his comrades were branded as “anti-national” for their opposition to the hanging of Yakub Memom, a branding which brought about sanctions and Vemula’s ultimate suicide in Hyderabad, JNU organizers, and the campus as a whole, are being branded as “anti-national” in an effort to squelch dissent.

We condemn the criminalization of dissent against state policies and see its connections with the political context here in the United States, in which the brandings of “terrorist” and Islamaphobic ideologies are mobilized to justify violent state polices and divide progressive opposition. We also see the connections between an increasingly emboldened right wing in India and in the United States and its symbiotic relationship with the growing neoliberal connections between the two governments.

We are also disconcerted by some in the Indian media who claim that, since central and state governments subsidize education in public institutions, it is the responsibility of their students to withhold critiques of state policies and to solely engage in their studies, as if studies are not tied up in the politics of the state to begin with. This view of education is nothing but a reflection of the ruling capitalist-Hindutva character of the state, which seeks to limit the right to dissent while simultaneously giving free reign to right wing student organizations. Indeed, we strongly support the right of students in public universities to engage in political activism that is critical of the state, capital, and Hindu nationalism. The rights to free speech, dissent, and public education are guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, fundamental to democracy, and are all the more necessary in a climate of increased global repression under neoliberalism.

To our friends, comrades, and colleagues in JNU and beyond, we stand in solidarity with your struggle to resist to the criminalization of dissent and the draconian colonial-era sedition laws being used to intimidate. To all of you detained, facing charges, and subject to threats of violence and even death, we commend your courage in the face of these reactionary attacks. We call others in the United States to stand up in opposition to the actions taken against JNU students and commit to making our own colleges and universities not spaces for the replication of ruling ideology, but instead for thoughtful critique in an effort to build a more just society.

Avantika Johri, Class of 2018

Jacob Cohn, Class of 2016

Moses Gaither-Ganim, Class of 2016

Vincent Kelley, Class of 2016

Phoebe Mogharei, Class of 2016

Taylor Burton, Class of 2018

Dhruv Gupta, Class of 2017

Phillip Gentle, Class of 2017

Eli Shepherd, Class of 2018

Justin Leuba, Class of 2018

Abraham Mhaidli, Class of 2017

Elizabeth Prevost, Associate Professor of History

Radhika Malaviya, Class of 2018

Rosie O’Brien, Class of 2016

Jalyn Marks, Class of 2016

Cassandra Miller, Class of 2016

Shuchi Kapila, Professor of English

Anjali Jha, Class of 2019

Karol Sadkowski, Class of 2016

Sarah Arena, Class of 2016

Tasnim Tabassum, Class of 2016

Jelena Kaplanovic, Class of 2016

Tom Earnest, Class of 2016

Barnad Sigdel, Class of 2019

Mark Laver, Assistant Professor of Music

Jackie Mukinisha, Class of 2016

Cecilia Kwakye, Class of 2017

Veethi Vyas, Class of 2016

Tim Dobe, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Isabel Monaghan, Class of 2016

Takshil Sachdev, Class of 2019

Kelly Pyzik, Class of 2016

Hameedullah Weaver, Class of 2017

Jennifer Joy, Class of 2016

Sheva Greenwood, Class of 2016

Isabel Cooke, Class of 2016

Tyler Roberts, Professor of Religious Studies

Youngbin Song, Class of 2015

Kenneth Wee, Class of 2016

Abdulhamid Sidi, Dining Services

Madeline Warnick, Class of 2016

Vedika Haralalka, Class of 2018

Jeremy Chen, Assistant Professor of Art

Sarina Farb, Class of 2016

Androniki Mitrou, Class of 2017

Jermaine Stewart-Webb, Class of 2016

Jonathan Andelson, Professor of Anthropology

Alexandra Odom, Class of 2016

Gabe Singer, Class of 2016

Dixon Romeo, Class of 2016

Chris Hellmann, Class of 2016

Jon Sundby, Class of 2017

Comments are closed.