India and South Asia-related centres in eight leading British universities have condemned the police presence on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and urged its vice-chancellor to protect the academic community.
The centres said in a statement they were watching with “increasing concern” the events unfolding at JNU, including the detention and suspension of students.
“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,” the statement said.
The centres include those at Cambridge, Oxford, School of Oriental and African Studies, London School of Economics, Edinburgh, Nottingham, East Anglia and King’s College London.
JNU has been at the centre of a storm since police arrested students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on a charge of sedition following an event organised last week to protest the execution of Afzal Guru for his role in the 2001 attack on parliament.
“We condemn the presence of police on campus and the harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs. 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,” the statement said.
It added: “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.”