233 Academicians Join Growing Chorus Of Protest Against Intolerance In India

03/11/2015 5:03 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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MADHUBANI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election campaign rally for Bihar Assembly elections on November 1, 2015 in Madhubani, India. Bihar will hold five-phase elections between October 12 and November 5 to elect the 243-member assembly. Counting of votes will take place on November 8. BJP led NDA and Grand Secular Alliance comprising of RJD, JD (U) and Congress are two main coalitions vying to form the next government in the state. (Photo by Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- Academicians from across the country and even abroad have joined the rising chorus against intolerance in India. On Tuesday, 233 academics from universities in Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, as well as universities abroad signed a statement alleging that the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "mandating an atmosphere of violence and fear".

Those who have signed the statement include leading political scientist, writer and historian Christophe Jaffrelot, poet Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Indian scholar in English literature Supriya Chaudhuri, among others.

"The negligible response of the government to these growing incidents across the country, as also its silence at times of extreme distress, has provided tacit support to activities by those no longer at the 'fringe' but now occupying the mainstream," read the statement. "The scant condemnation accorded to these incidents by the government amounts to abstention from constitutional responsibility, and encouragement to greater hostility and aggression, especially against religious and caste minorities. The resolute silence of the political leadership at the Centre puts in question its own complicity in these events."

Support has also come from academicians in Columbia University in New York, King's College in London, as well as colleges in Chcago, Paris, Madrid, Toronto, Cape Town, etc.

The academics joined filmmakers, historians, writers, and scientists who have recently condemned the "growing intolerance" in the country, and many of them have returned their national awards in protest.

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intolerance protest india

Writers, readers and cultural activists participate in a silent protest against MM Kalburgi's murder at Mandi House, on 23 October, 2015 in New Delhi.

Full Statement by Academics Against Intolerance

In light of the recent spate of killings of noted writers and intellectuals M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar, and the Dadri lynching incident followed by forced nation-wide attempts at cultural policing, we feel that the current political dispensation headed by the Prime Minister is mandating an atmosphere of violence and fear.

The negligible response of the government to these growing incidents across the country, as also its silence at times of extreme distress, has provided tacit support to activities by those no longer at the 'fringe' but now occupying the mainstream. The scant condemnation accorded to these incidents by the government amounts to abstention from constitutional responsibility, and encouragement to greater hostility and aggression, especially against religious and caste minorities. The resolute silence of the political leadership at the Centre puts in question its own complicity in these events.

The very public culture of creative-critical freedom and the right to expression of dissent in the country are rapidly eroding, leaving in their place an order of intolerance and bigotry. The commitment to intellectual inquiry is being institutionally delegitimised through steady cuts in education subsidies -- including research grants and fellowships for scholars -- even as protesting students are set upon by well-armed policemen. Centres and institutions of higher learning are being handed over to those who qualify only through their allegiance to ruling-party agendas. While conditions were not exactly pristine prior to May 2014, the climate of aggressive intolerance we are now witnessing seems to have been aggravated through the deliberate indifference and disengagement of those currently in power.

The obvious attempts at fear mongering, intimidating people into accepting undemocratic and inequitable ideas, and at imposing totalitarian, narrow, prejudiced and intolerant versions of 'nation-hood' and 'national interest' are designed to impede progressive thought and erode fundamental rights. Such impositions especially in matters of food, cultural practices and beliefs, are reprehensible and absolutely antithetical to the progressive course charted out in the Constitution.

We, the undersigned -- as teachers and academics engaged in the pursuit of critical learning -- wish to register our alarm and protest against the escalating incidents of violence and terror on targeted communities and citizens.

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