Top UK varsities condemn police action in JNU

London: Eight top universities in the UK including Oxford and Cambridge today came out in support of JNU, strongly criticising the police action in its campus as a “direct attack on dissent and debate”.

A joint statement issued by entire centres of teaching and research on South Asia of leading universities said the February 12 police action against students threatened the varsity’s freedom of expression and democratic dissent, which they described as “hallmark of JNU’s history and reputation globally”.

“Institutes and centres with dedicated faculty members engaged in teaching and research on India and South Asia in universities in the UK are watching with increasing concern the events that are unfolding at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) including the detention and suspension of students,” the statement said.

“We also note that the recent events at JNU are a further demonstration of the fact that universities have a duty of care to protect their students, following on from the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad,” it added.

The letter came as massive countrywide protests were held against the arrest of JNU students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and ex-Delhi University lecturer SAR Geelani to drop sedition charges against them.

The eight signatories of the statement appealed to the Vice Chancellor of JNU to protect members of the university community as well as the freedom of expression and dissent.

The statement reads: “We see the police action on the JNU campus on February 12 2016 as a direct attack on JNU’s internationally renowned tradition of critical thinking, dissent, scholarship, and debate.

“We stand beside the international scholars who have signed the 15 February 2016 statement in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of JNU.

“We condemn the presence of police on campus and the harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs.

“An open, tolerant, and democratic society is inextricably linked to the freedoms of thought and expression cultivated by universities in India and abroad. We have long valued JNU for its critical imagination and critical scholarship, which have been nurtured by the plurality of political beliefs and activism on its campus.”

The statement is signed by the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge; Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS), University of Oxford; South Asia Institute, SOAS University of London; Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh; King’s India Institute, King’s College London; Gender Institute, London School of Economics; Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham; and School of International Development, University of East Anglia.

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