Statement on Recent Violence in Indian Universities from Staff and Students at Queen Mary University of London
*For the attention of all current Staff and Students as well as QMUL Alumni. This statement formally closed on Sunday, 12 January, but new signatures will be added intermittently. Please feel free to sign.*
As staff and students of Queen Mary University of London, we would like to register our concern and alarm regarding the recent spate of violence on Indian university campuses, notably at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi and at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh. The violence (including tear gas, water cannons and baton charges) at JMI and AMU was enacted by police authorities in the face of peaceful student protests; at JNU, it was enacted by right wing vigilantes, many from youth organisations affiliated with the ruling party of government, with late and insubstantial interventions by Delhi Police.
These acts of intimidation and attacks on the democratic right to express dissent come against the backdrop of increasingly authoritarian moves on the part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led national government: notably in Kashmir, which has been on a security lockdown and communications blackout since August 2019 following the government’s revocation of the region’s special status as underwritten by the Constitution of India; and more recent attempts to impose a Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens which would have dire implications for Muslims in India, and which threatens the secular status of the Indian Republic. These developments follow a rising tide of targeted violence against Dalits, Muslims and other minorities in India since the election of Narendra Modi in 2014 and the consolidation of a right-wing Hindu nationalist politics at federal and provincial levels. We see these developments as related to and manifesting as a pattern of anti-democratic governance, constituting a dangerous slide towards authoritarianism.
Queen Mary University of London has long-standing links to India via its staff and students, including most recently through its participation in the Resilient Futures India Initiative (RFII) and the consolidation of specialist research activity through the QM South Asia Forum. The undersigned would like to make explicit their support for students and faculty at JMI, JNU and AMU, as well as other universities in India where principles of academic freedom and campus safety are under threat. We join colleagues across the world in demanding that perpetrators of violence on Indian university campuses are held accountable and that the Indian government as well as Higher Education administrators do everything within their remit to ensure universities remain sites for the free exchange of ideas and the peaceful expression of dissent, core facets of democracy. This includes in Kashmir, where many students and academics have been detained since 5 August 2019 and where there have been longstanding bans on student union activities. As part of this process, we support calls for an independent investigation into the attacks on Indian universities, with all findings fully disclosed to the public and acted upon by the national government.
*Please add your name below by 18:00 Sunday, 12 January. After this date, signatures will be intermittently updated*
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