Our statement for the Global Diaspora Alliance protests 25th October 2020

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

governmental agencies.

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)

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