We made a video statement for the Global Diaspora Alliance protests #DiasporaAgainstFascismInIndia . Transcript of the statement can be found below.
1. ‘Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it – social democracy.’
These words of Babasaheb Ambedkar form the foundation of InSAF India,
International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India. We are an international
coalition of diasporic Indians supporting academic freedom in India.
2. - We demand the release of G.N. Saibaba, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Anand
Teltumbde, Shoma Sen, Hany Babu, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson,
Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Jyoti Raghoba
Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor, Stan Swamy, Umar
3. and all other academics, scholar-activists and artists who have been imprisoned for
speaking truth to power and for choosing the side of the most marginalised and
oppressed in Indian society.
4. - We demand that the Indian government refrain from any political intervention in
the autonomous functioning of educational institutions. It is the constitutional duty of
the state to ensure that education and research can flourish as a public good.
5. - We call on the international community to publicly address cases of violation of
academic freedom in any collaborations with Indian educational institutions and
6. Academic freedom is the right of all members of the academic community to ask
questions, conduct inquiries on any subject without fear or restrictions of a political
nature, and to express opinions in public. Academic freedom is the autonomy of all
academic collectives, institutions and their departments and subsections, to fulfil the
mandate for which they have been established and accredited, without interference
from state or private forces. It is the constitutionally anchored obligation of the
government to safeguard and guarantee academic freedom to its citizens and its
institutions of learning.
7. The repression of academic freedom is a known feature of authoritarian regimes, from
the burning of books in Nazi Germany to China’s Cultural Revolution, and to the
recent persecution of thousands of academics in Turkey.
8. Since its independence from British colonial rule, India has been building its
academic institutions and its own practices and cultures of academic life against all
odds and on a stunning diversity of terrains. Many of us who speak have been
beneficiaries of the public education system in India and many Indian scholars have
established themselves with repute in educational institutions around the world.
9. Yet in the more recent past, under the aegis of the current ruling party, the Bharatiya
Janata Party, which grew out of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a dominant-caste,
militant and masculinist version of religious nationalism, existing infrastructures of
academic freedom are being systematically assaulted.
10. Institutional activities are placed under surveillance, institutional leadership is
manipulated through political appointments, campuses are militarized. Teachers and
scholars are threatened and arrested, their writings are banned, their publications are
confiscated, research on certain sensitive issues is not given clearance from
governmental bodies. Among those targeted are a significant number of Dalitbahujan
scholars and scholars from minority communities. When academics are sent to jail for
asking difficult questions and for defending the rights of the disenfranchised, then
society cannot be called free.
11. What is at stake is however not just academic life in isolation. At its roots, the growing
repressions against academics in India dovetail neatly with the logic of social
excommunication in a patriarchal caste society, with its unconditional ‘castigation’
and ‘trials’, equivalent to ‘punishment in the penal code in both its magnitude and its
12. And thus in India today, 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.
13. It is also important to recognise that the jailing of academics 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 self. We don’t exist as
individuals in a society. In a society, there can only be social selves.
14. It is therefore necessary to connect the freedom of expression to social justice and
highlight that the imprisonment of academics not only cancels their social self but
also suspends the very idea of the social self through suspending knowledge
production and formation itself.
15. InSAF India joins the call of the Global Diaspora Alliance to end the violence and
structural discrimination against minorities including caste based violence, we call for
the government of India to repeal the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and
to release all incarcerated political prisoners. We conclude with the words of the poet
Faiz Ahmed Faiz:
16. ‘banein hain ehl-e-hawas, mudda’ii bhi, munsif bhi, kisay wakeel karein, kis se
munsafi chaein.’ 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 Aey Watan)