Bengal academics express solidarity with agitating JNU students

Kolkata, May 4 (IANS) Academics from West Bengal have expressed solidarity with the agitating students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and urged the vice chancellor to reject the recommendation of the high level committee and hold a dialogue with the students.

“We stand in solidarity with the students of JNU. We urge the vice chancellor of the university to reject the recommendation of the high level committee, and to open a dialogue with his students.

“This will not diminish the university, but indeed, will add to its lustre,” said a statement issued by Shubhendu Dasgupta, a retired professor of Calcutta University, on behalf of concerned teachers and academics, to the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) and to the students’ union.

The academics — both retired and active — belong to different colleges, universities, and research centres of Bengal.

JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and 19 other students are on a hunger strike since April 28 to protest against the punishment handed out to them by a high-level committee that probed the February 9 event on the campus.

Expressing “shock” at the rustication, expulsion and fine imposed on several students, the signatories of the statement said they “find this painful and absolutely contrary to our understanding of what a university should be.

“We find it incredible that today an old colonial law is invoked to discipline our students. This was the very law that our colonial masters had used to incarcerate our freedom fighters, and it is ludicrous and outright shameful that our present rulers find it so handy,” the statement said.

The academics also asserted that questioning the policies of the state amounts to sedition.

“It is not yet fully established that the accused students had indeed raised such slogans as they are alleged to have done. Notwithstanding that, we do not believe that questioning the policies of the state, even if that pertains to cessation to a part of its territory, amounts to sedition, howsoever sedition is defined.

“Are we not free to question, or condemn our state, if we happen to believe that it has on some account or other acted illegally or immorally? If such freedom is denied, then we conclude, this state has lost its privilege to call itself a republic,” they asked.

JNU vice chancellor M. Jagdeesh Kumar on Wednesday appealed to the agitating students to end their hunger strike and asked them to approach the administration to discuss their demands.

Anti-national slogans were allegedly raised at an event held on the JNU campus on February 9 to commemorate executed parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, following which Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested on sedition charges.

The committee report, which was released on April 25, fined Kanhaiya Kumar Rs.10,000 and rusticated Khalid and Bhattacharya for one semester each.

Another research scholar, Mujeeb Gatto, was rusticated for two semesters. Khalid was also asked to pay Rs.20,000 as fine by May 13.

–IANS

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