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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 12 New Delhi March 9, 2019

International Scholars Decry Attack on Freedom of Speech in India

Monday 11 March 2019

International scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler amongst others, have signed a statement castigating the Modi-led government for creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence. Under the aegis of Fresh Perspectives, USA, the academics from mostly the US and UK have expressed deep concern about the current environment in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the “alarming clampdown on every form of dissent in India”.

The full text of the statement, which appeals to “all students, workers, educationists, writers, social justice activists, and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to take a stand on these human rights violations and demand immediate release of all imprisoned rights activists”, reads:

Since Narendra Modi took the Prime Minister’s office in 2014, there has been an alarming clampdown on every form of political dissent in India.

In recent months, the Maharashtra Police arrested several prominent human rights activists including Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others in the Bhima-Koregaon case.

In a similar way, several years ago, Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba and political activist Kobad Ghandy were imprisoned on fabricated charges. All these social activists have a long history of challenging state violence and human rights abuses through democratic and constitutional means. Through their civil and human rights activism, they have become the voice of the voiceless, be it socially and economically marginalised communities, indigenous people, religious minorities, and victims of all kinds of oppressions in society.

As public intellectuals, writers, and poets they took the responsibility to develop political awareness, critical thinking, and the notion of social justice among the general public.

In Modi’s India, appalling attacks on Dalits (the so-called untouchables), Adivasis (the aboriginals of India), rationalists, Muslims and other religious minorities, and rights activists including human rights organisations like Amnesty International have continued and intensified.

The Modi Government, as part of its long-term political agenda to establish the Hindu nation, has been using its authority to silence any voice that challenges its domination and repression. The government has been using legal and extra-legal methods to suppress democratic, rational, and secular forces. In recent years, the vigilante groups associated with the ruling party have killed several rationalists, journalists, and secularists.

Moreover, the ruling party, by using its “legal” methods, has coercively detained and imprisoned public activists who are defending the fundamental rights of the people. To put them in prison the state first used its friendly media outlets to propagate the lie that these civil rights activists were conspiring to over-throw the Indian state.

By concocting a series of conspiracy stories, both the Indian state and the Maharashtra Government worked together to put civil rights activists behind the bars under draconian colonial sedition law.

These human rights violations raise questions of the responsibility of the international community and the global civil society in times of crisis. When the Supreme Court is unable to check the abuse of constitutional power and the judicial system cannot deliver justice to victims of state violence, then what should citizens do?

With all these undemocratic and authori-tarian activities, the Indian state appears to be bulldozing its own Constitution that upholds fundamental democratic rights and secular values.

Using all kinds of oppressive methods, the Modi Government is creating fear and appre-hension among the people who challenge its neoliberal economic policies and ultra-nationalist agenda. These are pressing questions that we, as civil/human rights activists, are very con-cerned about.

We sincerely appeal to all students, workers, educationists, writers, social justice activists, and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to take a stand on these human rights violations and demand immediate release of all imprisoned rights activists.

As citizens and immigrants, your voices play an important role in shaping public opinion in the campaign to free these wrongfully impri-soned activists. Your support to democracy, justice and free speech will help boost the morale of rights activists and democratic struggles in India. We invite all of you to actively participate in this global campaign and extend your solidarity with democratic rights activists.


1. Noam Chomsky, Laureate Professor of Linguistics, Agnese Nelms Haury Chair, University of Arizona, USA.

2. James Petras, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Binghamton University, USA.

3. Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA.

4. Fredric R. Jameson, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen Professor of Comparative Literature, Duke University Literature Program, Duke University, USA.

5. Bruno Latour, Emeritus Professor, Sciences Po Paris, France.

6. Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, University of California, USA.

7. Göran Therborn, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Cambridge, UK.

8. Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA.

9. Mary Frances Berry Geraldine R. Segal, Professor of American social thought, and the Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

10. Henry Veltmeyer, Professor Emeritus, Inter-national Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University, Canada.

11. Leo Panitch, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, York University, Canada.

12. James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and anthropology, Yale University, USA.

13. Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics (emeritus), University of Ottawa; Director, Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), Montreal, Canada.

14. David McNally Cullen, Distinguished Professor of History and Business Department of History, University of Houston, USA.

15. Michael Burawoy, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

16. Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Duncan Mellichamp Distinguished Professor Global studies and Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

17. Erik Swyngedouw, Professor, Department of Geography The University of Manchester, UK.

18. Philip David McMichael, Professor, Department of Sociology, Cornell University, USA.

19. Enzo Traverso Susan and Barton Winokur, Professors in the Humanities, Department of History, Cornel University, USA.

20. Gordon Laxer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada.

21. Sourayan Mookerjea, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada.

22. Jens Lerche, Reader in Agrarian and Labor Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK.

23. Cristóbal Kay, Emeritus Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands.

24. Stephanie Luce, Professor of Labour Studies, School for Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY, USA.

25. Christopher Chase-Dunn, Professor of Sociology, University of California-Riverside, USA.

26. Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Centre, USA.

27. Ronald H. Chilcote, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Riverside, USA.

28. Jan Breman, Emeritus Professor, University of Amsterdam, theNetherlands.

29. Martin Doornbos, Emeritus Professor, Inter-national Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands.

30. Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, City University of New York, Brooklyn College, USA, and Senior Research Associate, University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

31. Paul Le Blanc, Professor of History, La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

32. Krishna Rao Maddipati, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Wayne State University, USA.

33. Joy James F.C. Oakley, 3rd Century Professor of Humanities, Williams College, USA.

34. Roger Jeffery, Professor of Sociology of South Asia; Associate Director, Edinburgh India Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK

35. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Distinguished Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University, USA.

36. Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature King’s College London Strand Campus, London, UK.

37. John Hall James, McGill Professor of Sociology, McGill University, Canada.

38. Ronaldo Munck, Head of Civic Engagement, Dublin City University, Ireland.

39. John Harriss, Professor of International Studies, Simon FraserUniversity, Canada.

40. Richard Sennett, Centennial Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics, London, UK.

41. Gerardo Otero, Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Simon Fraser Uni-versity, Canada.

42. John Foran, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

43. Marcel van der Linden, Senior Researcher, History, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

44. Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor, Media Studies, Rutgers University, USA.

45. Lise Vogel, Emerita Professor of Sociology, Rider University, USA.

46. Robin D. G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

47. Mike Gismondi, Professor, Sociology and Global Studies, Athabasca, Canada.

48. Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Associate Professor of English, Cornell University, USA.

49. Raúl Delgado, Wise Professor and Director of Development Studies at Universidad Autó-noma de Zacatecas, Mexico

50. Adam Hochschild, Author; Lecturer, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley, USA.

51. Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Associate Professor, Department of Global Development and Planning, University of Agder, Norway.

52. Jenny Bourne, Joint Editor, Race and Class, London, UK.

53. Radha D’Souza, Reader, Westminster Law School, University of Westminster, UK.

54. Alfredo Saad-Filho, Professor of Political Economy, Department of Development Studies, SOAS University of London, UK.

55. Subir Sinha, Senior Lecturer, Department of Development Studies, SOAS University of London, UK.

56. Ilan Pappe, Professor of History, Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

57. David F. Ruccio, Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame, USA.

58. Craig Calhoun, University Professor of Social Sciences, Arizona State University, USA.

59. Sitaramayya Ari, Professor, Biomedical Sciences, Oakland University, USA.

60. Afsar Mohammad, Associate Professor, Uni-versity of Pennsylvania, USA.

61. VR Veluri, Writer and Scientist, USA.

62. Suresh Kolichala, Writer and Linguist, USA.

63. Chandra Kanneganti, Writer (Poet and Short Story writer), USA.

And others


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