American academics of Indian descent on Saturday condemned the police action against JNU students and accused the BJP government of attacking democratic freedoms.
“The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the student union president, and the charges of sedition against him, Umar Khalid, and other students are emblematic of the continued attempts to muzzle dissenting voices,” they said in a statement.
The academics planned to read this statement at a solidarity rally they are holding at Columbia University later Saturday, to be attended by Brown, City University of New York, Princeton, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.
Professors Partha Chatterjee and Anupama Rao of Columbia, and Rohit De of Yale are expected to address the rally.
“When we stand with JNU, we also stand with what the protests there symbolise. The attacks on JNU are only the latest of the several assaults by the BJP government and its allies on democracy, constitutionally guaranteed rights, and academic freedoms,” the statement said.
The academics said they “salute” student protests at the Film and Television Institute of India, Hyderabad Central University, Jadavpur University, Allahabad University and others.
They said, “We believe that it is the duty of citizens to be critical of their governments. Sedition laws or charges of anti-nationalism have no place in democratic societies. We believe it is the right of people to dissent and to voice their opinions, however much these opinions may run counter to the views of the majority. We believe that debates and protests are the life-blood of a democracy.”