Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.
(Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, 1949)

Our  Work and Ethos

  • 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 institutions.

  • We collaborate with the international community to publicly address cases of violation of academic freedom in any collaborations with Indian educational institutions and governmental agencies.

  • 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 formation.

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)

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