February 28, 2017

India: Eminent academics from various international universities write against ABVP, Ramjas college violence

The Hindu, February 27, 2017

Academics write against ABVP, Ramjas college violence

Eminent academics from various international universities have expressed support to students and faculty of Ramjas College, New Delhi, which witnessed a bloody violence recently.

The academics, in an open letter, have condemed the Sangh Parivar and its students union wing ABVP for intervening “violently in any attempt by students to have open discussions” that the Parivar deems to be inappriopritate.
Drawing parallel with the agitations in JNU and Jadavpur Univeristy, the letter claimed the Sangh Parivar’s agenda was “to close the Indian mind and destroy intellectual flexibility.”

Full text of the letter:

We Stand With India’s Students.

Forces arrayed against Indian students are many, but they are united by one axiom – to destroy the ability of students to hold progressive views or to encourage these views amongst their peers and thus obstruct academic freedom. The attack at Ramjas College in Delhi is one episode. It is linked to the assaults at India’s premier university – Jawaharlal Nehru University – and to the many attacks on students from Jadavpur University (West Bengal) to Central Universities in Hyderabad, Haryana and Jharkhand. The ruling party’s student wing – ABVP – has been emboldened to intervene violently in any attempt by students to have open discussions about matters that the Sangh Parivar deems to be inappropriate. This is thuggish censorship. We stand against it.

The Sangh Parivar wants to use ‘reforms’ to college admission policy and to the policies on student life as a way to engineer the student body. They want to disallow progressive politics and allow only the politics of violent cultural nationalism. The people chosen by the ruling party to run academic and cultural institutions show that they care little for competence and are driven by a narrow political agenda. Blind obedience and conformity are preferable to them than robust and rich political debate on the campuses. The Sangh Parivar’s agenda is to close the Indian mind and destroy intellectual flexibility. We stand against this agenda.

Leaders of colleges who are sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar have emboldened non-academic agents to use violence against students and faculty who want to hold conversations around controversial themes – Kashmir, the Sangh Parivar, caste violence, misogyny, and class apartheid. This intimidation is the opposite of what a university and college must be – namely, a sanctuary for conversation and debate over the very issues that are most contentious. No progress is possible in a country if young people are not permitted full freedom to discuss difficult issues, pressing issues, issues that will matter to them long after the political leadership in the country has passed on. We stand against the rule of state-tolerated violence on college campuses.

India’s students and faculty have been brave against these attacks. We stand with them.

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University.
Akhil Gupta, Professor of Anthropology, UCLA.
Amitava Kumar, Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English, Vassar College.
Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania.
David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University.
Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor and Director, Study of Women and Gender, Smith College.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor, Columbia University.
Joya Chatterji, Professor of South Asian History and Director, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge.
Raka Ray, Professor of Sociology and South & Southeast Asia Studies, University of California (Berkeley).
Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies, Columbia University.
Srirupa Roy, Professor of Political Science, University of Göttingen.
Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History, Trinity College.
Zaheer Baber, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto.