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Fury of the intellectuals: 200 academics release joint statement against 'intolerance and bigotry'

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 7:38 IST

Since the ball of criticism against the rising intolerence was set on a roll by writers Uday Prakesh and Nayantara Sehgal, many writers, poets, filmmakers, scientists and academics have joined them.

The latest to lend their voice to the cause are 200 academics from various Indian and international universities including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Indian Institute of Technology, Columbia University, etc.

The statement was jointly drafted by two professors from Delhi University and one professor from Calcutta University.

Here is the full text of the statement:

In light of the recent spate of killings of noted writers and intellectuals M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar, and the Dadri lynching incident followed by forced nation-wide attempts at cultural policing, we feel that the current political dispensation headed by the Prime Minister is mandating an atmosphere of violence and fear.

The negligible response of the government to these growing incidents across the country, as also its silence at times of extreme distress, has provided tacit support to activities by those no longer at the 'fringe' but now occupying the mainstream. The scant condemnation accorded to these incidents by the government amounts to abstention from constitutional responsibility, and encouragement to greater hostility and aggression, especially against religious and caste minorities. The resolute silence of the political leadership at the Centre puts in question its own complicity in these events.

The very public culture of creative-critical freedom and the right to expression of dissent in the country are rapidly eroding, leaving in their place an order of intolerance and bigotry. The commitment to intellectual inquiry is being institutionally delegitimised through steady cuts in education subsidies - including research grants and fellowships for scholars - even as protesting students are set upon by well-armed policemen. Centres and institutions of higher learning are being handed over to those who qualify only through their allegiance to ruling-party agendas. While conditions were not exactly pristine prior to May 2014, the climate of aggressive intolerance we are now witnessing seems to have been aggravated through the deliberate indifference and disengagement of those currently in power. The obvious attempts at fear mongering, intimidating people into accepting undemocratic and inequitable ideas, and at imposing totalitarian, narrow, prejudiced and intolerant versions of 'nation-hood' and 'national interest' are designed to impede progressive thought and erode fundamental rights. Such impositions especially in matters of food, cultural practices and beliefs, are reprehensible and absolutely antithetical to the progressive course charted out in the Constitution.

We - as teachers and academics engaged in the pursuit of critical learning - wish to register our alarm and protest against the escalating incidents of violence and terror on targeted communities and citizens.

First published: 3 November 2015, 2:09 IST