Sanhati’s Statement on Attack on Freedom of Expression in Indian Universities


The imposition of neoliberal economic policies by the Indian State since the early 1990’s has, much along expected lines, spelt disaster for the vast masses of the country. A key component of this paradigm has been the unprecedented levels of State-assisted resource grab by big Indian and foreign capital. Termed as the biggest resource grab since the time of Columbus by a government report, it has extended to arable land, forest land, water and resulted in forcibly cutting off access of the poor and marginalized sections to virtually all forms of common property resources. This, in addition to the five decade long development disaster of the Indian state has increased the economic vulnerability of the poor to unprecedented levels. In responding to the resistance mounted by poor people, especially adivasis and poor peasants, against this forcible dispossession and pauperization, the Government of India has opted for a military solution: Operation Green Hunt. It has chosen to wage war on the most economically vulnerable and socially disadvantaged sections of the Indian population, instead of launching a war on poverty, destitution, hunger and malnutrition.

Going hand in hand with this unstated and unjust war on poor people is a growing authoritarianism of the Indian State. Any and every dissenting voice is sought to be silenced, any opposition is sought to be crushed with force, dialogue and debate is sought to be replaced with repression. While the murder and rape of tribals continue in the “war zone” across the forested regions of Central India, any voice of opposition to this policy is brutally silenced: Binayak Sen was arrested and kept in Raipur jail for close to two years without any charges, Himanshuji’s ashram, the Vanavasi Chetna Ashram, was demolished in Chhattisgarh, human rights activists across the country are being daily harassed and intimidated by the police and intelligence agencies, Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) in Assam was harassed by the police, Dr. E Rati Rao, the vice-president of PUCL, Karnataka, has been charged with sedition, Prakash Korram of the Ekta Parishad was detained for several days in Gujarat. The list is growing at an alarmingly rapid rate.

The attack on the democratic rights of the people has now reached the university campuses of the country. It has been recently reported that legitimate political activity of students are coming under undue scrutiny, that the administrations of various universities are attempting to monitor and debar public meetings on “sensitive” political issues, that university teachers and students are being wilfully “picked up” by the police for interrogation. This is unacceptable, this cannot be allowed to continue.

We appeal to all democratic-minded people of India and the world to raise their voices against the unjust war of the Indian State and the concomitant attack on the democratic rights of the people. We must lend our support to the movement to protect the freedom of speech and expression, the right to democratic dissent.

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