q u o t e

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

dissent is not sedition

Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy 

The Citizens Committee for
the Defense of Democracy  strongly
condemns the clampdown in Jawaharlal
 Nehru University. We deplore the targeting
 of students and teachers and condemn the
culture of authoritarian menace that the
Central Government has unleashed. We
strongly believe that dissent is not sedition
 and invoking sedition laws against students,
ordering the police to enter the campus and
unlawfully arresting a student leader, issuing
warrants against many others on charges of
inciting violence, attacking students, teachers
and arrested student in the court premises,
are serious assault on the fundamental rights of
the citizens of this country. The right to dissent is
 fundamental to maintaining democracy
and the recent developments have shaken the
 foundations of democracy. We condemn the
indiscriminate use of the colonial law of sedition
 on dissenting voices.
The attack on JNU is an attack on our diversity,
on public funding of universities and access
to higher education for the common people.
The vicious campaign of ‘tax-payers’ monies
funding the anti-nationals ’ is highly regressive
 and malicious. It is only through public
funding and reservation policies that access to
 higher education has been expanded for students
from all backgrounds, especially girl students from
 poorer backgrounds. It is public funding which
makes higher education accessible to many.
We are pained and angry that a public institution
 of higher learning has been attacked with
such viciousness, systematically and calculatedly.
 JNU offers a vibrant space for learning,
questioning, debating and developing a political
understanding of structural injustices.
We are extremely concerned that the police is
completely turned into a silent spectator as
students, teachers and activists are publicly
assaulted and abused, and hate and violence
is incited against agitating students. The police is
openly issuing such loaded statements,
which law abiding citizens perceive as threatening.
To disagree and question is every citizen’s right
 and the JNU students are only exercising
 their right, peacefully and with utmost restraint and
civility. We are particularly concerned about the
safety of our young women and men students who
are being intimidated by the University administration,
 police and the marauding mobs which have been
 unleashed on the students in the vicinity of JNU
and in and around the Court where cases against
accused student is being heard.
We deplore the labeling of “anti-national” of those
 who are exercising their democratic right of
challenging the majoritarian orthodoxy. We believe
 that this will render this country intellectually
 poorer if critical thinking is pushed to a space
which is reserved for the enemy.
We condemn sections of the visual and print
media for their open partisanship, irresponsible
 coverage, misreporting, and blacking out news
 and views of the striking students.
We feel it is time for all thinking people of this
 city to come together and raise our collective
voices in defense of academic freedom, right to
 dissent and defend the spaces for democratic dissent.
We unequivocally demand that
All cases and charges should be withdrawn against
all JNU students immediately and unconditionally.
The matter should have been handled by a responsible
 committee internal to JNU, with a fair representation
 of teachers, rather than calling in the police.

The administration of JNU should be held accountable
 for dereliction of duty, collaborating with the Police in
 falsely charging the students, enabling the police to search
university premises and hostels and arrest students at the
expense of internal processes and without consulting the
 university faculty and office bearers. The University
administration’s bowing to the government pressure
compromised University autonomy with serious
implications for the careers of students and prospects
of pursuing degrees.

No police should be allowed to enter the campus and all
 plainclothes police be removed from the campus immediately.

No University premises including the hostels should be
checked by anyone other than the university administration
 and only in the presence of the wardens.

Delhi police should restrain the menacing gangs roaming
about in the vicinity of JNU intimidating the students,
teachers and solidarity groups. We demand that rather than
unleashing these mobs on the University community with a
 malicious intent, effective steps should be taken to prevent
 such mobs from indulging in mischief.

Police should act responsibly, performs its duty and
ensures safety of the students, teachers and solidarity
 groups in courts and in public spaces and allow them to
 exercise their lawful rights of voicing their concerns.

Romila Thapar, Krishna Sobti, Harbans Mukhia, Harsh
Mander, Navsharan Singh, Nalini Taneja, Asad Zaidi,
 Mangalesh Dabral, Subhash Gatade, Uma Chakravarty,
Syeda Hameed; Sukumar Muralidharan, Prabir Purkayastha,
 Puneet Bedi, Rahul Roy, Saba Dewan, Urvashi Butalia,
Tapan Bose, Nandita Narain, Peggy Mohan, Farah Naqvi,
Neeraj Malik, Javed Malik, Jawrimal Parakh, Devaki Jain,
Dinesh Mohan, Prabhat Patnaik, Bharat Bhushan, Dunu Roy,
Jean Dreze, Tanika Sarkar, Sumit Sarkar, Warisha
Farasat, Seema Mustafa, Farida Khan, Salil Mishra