The recent attacks by politically motivated hoodlums on the students and faculty of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, constitute one of the most egregious examples of violence, repression, and mob impunity directed against Indian universities since 1947, the year of Indian independence. It violates every norm of democracy, of academic freedom, of the protection of universities from arbitrary state power, and of the duty of university administrators to protect their students and faculty.
The physical and emotional injuries sustained by JNU students and faculty, in their dormitory rooms, their classrooms and their campus spaces has been shocking by any standard. It is evident that the Delhi police were indifferent at best and collusive at worst with the politically driven attacks of the last few days and weeks in which peaceful protesters have met with ferocious repression from state and security apparatuses while those attacking them have been allowed to act unhindered.
The administration of the University, and especially the Vice-Chancellor, Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, have lost all national and international credibility. The violence against members of the JNU community should have provoked a massive effort by the senior administration to protect them and to ensure their well-being. This was not done, and this dereliction of duty is part of the systematic hostility of the Vice Chancellor and his administration towards all forms of peaceful protest, democratic dissent and secular debate at and around JNU. This active abandonment of responsibility includes administrative blindness to partisan mob violence, complicity with the Home Ministry’s repression of lawful and peaceful protest against a viciously discriminatory new citizenship law (CAA), and open collusion between rampaging hooligans and the current regime. Whatever the Vice-Chancellor’s personal views and political affiliations, he has manifestly failed in his duty of care towards the students and staff of his university. This renders him unfit to hold the highest post in an internationally recognized institution of higher education.
In this context, we the undersigned, academics and administrators, from across international institutions of higher education call for (a) the immediate resignation of Vice-Chancellor Kumar and (b) the appointment of a non-partisan Investigative panel to identify the criminals who broke into the campus and (c) a judicial initiative from the Supreme Court to hold the Delhi Police to account for their actions against students as well as non-action against criminals. The reputation of the Indian government has suffered massively in the international public sphere over the last six months as a consequence of a series of policies, speeches, and actions by the current political regime which reveal its thorough contempt for the Indian Constitution, and its ideals of diversity, secularism and inclusion. It has also abandoned the customary and legally-protected regard for the dignity and sanctity of India’s university campuses in allowing police to enter some campuses without the VC’s permission even as the JNU VC shockingly failed to ask police to intervene in a massive mob criminal attack on his community. Simultaneously he has registered criminal complaints against injured students, including the President of the JNU Students Union, in a particularly egregious example of victimizing the victims. We believe his position to be untenable and call for his resignation with immediate effect.