Published: 23rd May 2022
JNUTA issues statement on recent arrests of professors; condemns police action
JNUTA expresses its strong opposition to all intimidation, violence and peremptory police action that obstructs free rational debate and the public practice of criticism, a part of the statement reads
Expressing its opinion over the recent arrests of professors from Lucknow University (LU) and Delhi University (DU), the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has issued a statement online on the JNUTA blog (junta.online). Published on May 23, Monday, the blog post is titled ‘In solidarity with Dalit and Minority professors under threat’. “All we have done is shown solidarity with the Minority community,” said Sucharita Sen, JNUTA Secretary.
DU’s associate professor of History Dr Ratan Lal was arrested on Friday, May 20, over a Facebook post that he had made on the Shivling found inside the Gyanvapi mosque complex. A similar fate was suffered by Dr Ravikant Chandan of LU, who had first been abused by a student inside the university campus, because of his comments on the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque issue. An FIR had been filed against him and, a day later, a group of students had written a letter against him to the LU Vice-Chancellor, complaining of “misconduct”. Both the cases are still hanging in the balance.
The professors both belonged to Minority communities. JNUTA has condemned their arrests and has asked the authorities to stop the persecution of scholars from the Minority community and of all intellectuals at large. Sucharita also cited the examples of Retd Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, who was trolled online because of his comments, and Prof Nivedita Menon, who was criticised for her political remarks.
Explaining further, Sucharita said, “Everyone who has tried to express themselves brought out their independent voices against the larger majoritarian narratives they have been opposed to. But that is what intellectuals should be doing. It is their job to reason out things and base their arguments on certain facts.” She added, “They are well aware that the facts are perceived differently by different people. The reality and fact might vary. But it is important for everyone to understand the others’ points of view because these plural voices bring out the plurality of the country. The country is not homogenous.”
“JNUTA expresses its strong opposition to all intimidation, violence and peremptory police action that obstructs free rational debate and the public practice of criticism by academics and intellectuals, which we see as indispensable for the life of a democracy. We demand that an immediate end be put to all such threats, police complaints and arrests and that the right to free and fearless expression of diverse points of view be upheld,” a section of the blog reads. It is signed by Sucharita and JNUTA President Bishnupriya Dutt.
“There has to be freedom in a democracy and university. And this can be achieved under circumstances where everyone can express themselves freely without fear. But threatening intellectuals, initiating mob action and police action against them will not help. The political forum is based on reasoned arguments. So, browbeating the intellectuals’ opinions is not right,” Sucharita said and added, “Without being able to express freely, how will we teach the students? If such situations continue, universities will cease to exist. People will be so fearful to speak anything. They will be constantly self-correcting themselves and centring their opinions on how others would react to it. Knowledge in a university cannot be circulated like this.”
“JNUTA believes that all comments and observations made in public fora must be informed by civic discussion and rational arguments alone…the aim of such a discourse is only to curtail intellectual freedom and open public debate on vital matters,” another section of the blog reads. Sucharita rued that the situation was different earlier and such cases were rarely seen.