INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY FOR
ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN INDIA
Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.
(Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, 1949)
International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India – InSAF India – is a diverse group of diasporic Indians located in different parts of the world, currently mainly Europe and North America. Some of us are academics, some are professionals in various fields. We all share a deep concern about the increasing assaults on academic freedom in India, in particular the attacks on anti-caste academics and scholars from minority backgrounds.
We consider it our obligation to raise our voices, to direct international attention not only to what is happening in India in terms of the infringements on academic freedom, but also to the growing dissemination of anti-intellectual, regressive political thought in the name of Indian culture and history at educational and research institutions around the world. We also believe that academic freedom is inextricably linked to social justice, and that knowledge production and formation are bound to the fostering of our social selves.
We campaign for the release of Indian academics, scholar-activists and artistes who have
been imprisoned for speaking truth to power and for choosing the side of the most
marginalised and oppressed in Indian society.
We campaign to raise awareness that it is the constitutional duty of the state to ensure that
education and research can flourish as a public good, and we demand the Indian government
refrain from any political intervention in the autonomous functioning of educational
We collaborate with the international community to publicly address cases of violation of
academic freedom in any collaborations with Indian educational institutions and
We work in solidarity with initiatives for upholding academic freedom around the world.
We resist the covert canonisation of regressive political thought under the guise of
introducing students to Indian philosophy or culture.
In the decades after independence, India has been building its academic institutions and its
own practices and cultures of academic freedom against all odds and on a stunning diversity
of terrains. However, increasingly in the past few years, a leadership with roots in a
Brahmanical Hindutva ideology, a militant and masculinist version of religious nationalism,
is systematically assaulting existing infrastructures of academic freedom. The very
institutions that were envisioned to dismantle the caste system – the parliament, the
judiciary and the legislature – are in danger of becoming instruments for protecting and
reproducing caste injustices, gender injustices, and all other forms of social, economic,
political and ecological injustices.
When academics are sent to jail for asking difficult questions and for defending the rights of
the disenfranchised, then society cannot be called free. The reducing academic freedom in
India dovetails neatly with the logic of social excommunication in a patriarchal caste society,
with its unconditional ‘castigation’ and ‘trials’, equivalent to what B.R. Ambedkar called
‘punishment in the penal code’ in both ‘its magnitude and its severity’. This is not simply a
concern for an individual’s freedom of expression. The issue at stake here is a radical
conception of social justice that is linked to our social selves.
We do not exist as individuals in a society. In a society, there can only be social selves. The
attacks and constraints on academic freedom not only cancel our social selves but also
suspend the very idea of the social itself through suspending knowledge production and
Bane haiñ ahl-e-havas, mudda’ī bhī, munsif bhī,
kise vakīl kareñ kis se munsifī chāheñ
[The power hungry have become both prosecutor and judge –
who will advocate for me, from whom shall I expect justice?]
(Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nisar Main Teri Galiyon Ke)