Draft Statement on Recent Violence in Indian Universities from Goldsmiths UCU

To be discussed at GUCU executive 14.01.2020

As members Goldsmiths UCU, 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 (JMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi and at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh. The violence (including tear gas, firing, water cannons and baton and lathi 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 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 (BJP) Bharatiya Janata Party-led national government: notably in Kashmir. Kashmir, which has been under occupation by India for decades, has recently been on an intensified security lockdown and complete communications blackout, now in its seventh month. In August 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution of India that granted special status to Kashmir and strengthened its control of the region. The BJP-led government has also recently passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) alongside the National Register of Citizens (NRC), The NRC asks residents of India to prove their citizenship and lineage through identification documents going back generations. The CAA states that everyone except Muslims will be given citizenship if they do not have the documents. Both these have dire implications for Muslims in India and threaten the secular status of the Indian Republic, entrenched in the Constitution. 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.

Goldsmiths, University of London has long-standing links to India via its staff and students. Goldsmiths UCU 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.