Withdraw the Undemocratic Gag Order on JNU Forum Against War on People!
Concerned Individuals and organisations against Operation Greenhunt
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The Vice Chancellor,
Jawaharlal Nehru University
We are shocked to know that the JNU administration has given a restraint order in the campus, notifying students of an ongoing Proctorial Enquiry against the JNU Forum against War on People. This restraint order prohibits the Forum from holding any public meetings or other events till the enquiry is over. Furthermore, the JNU printing shops have been instructed not to photocopy any written material issued by the Forum.
This, we believe, is tantamount to imposing an undeclared ban on a democratic platform, that too in a university as acclaimed as JNU which is widely known for its democratic culture. The steps taken by the administration are regrettable.
The JNU Forum against War on People was formed two years ago in JNU in opposition to the initiation of Operation Green Hunt. The context in which the Proctorial Enquiry is said to be going on is the distribution of a campaign document having objectionable material allegedly violating sections 3 and 7 of State Emblem Act, 2005. However, this objectionable material is nothing but a pictorial description of the Indian State smashing the people under its jackboot, which is widely available in the public domain.
We believe, the pictorial representation is an artistically made political expression. The Forum used it in the purpose of campaign for a public meeting organised on 5 March 2011 opposing Operation Green Hunt and states onslaught on the people. The meeting was addressed by noted writer Arundhati Roy and well known economist Prof. Amit Bhaduri, who is also the Emeritus Professor of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU. The meeting saw an unprecedented attendance of more than 600 students.
At a time when there is a mounting onslaught on the Adivasis and various other oppressed and deprived sections of the people in the name of Development by the Indian State, it is imperative that the students and all other sensitised sections discuss the manifold dimensions of Operation Green Hunt. The JNU Forum against War on People has been mobilising public opinion on the same. The authoritarian administrative action of gagging the forum is reminiscent of the Indian States attempts to clamp down on the voices of dissent. The incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen and scores of civil and political rights activists have been going on unabated in urban centres while the resisting Adivasis and other people are repressed by the Indian State in mineral rich forest areas. It is important for the powers-that-be to totally black-out these criminal acts of rape, murder, loot and plunder of the resisting Adivasis committed by the armed forces of the Indian state in central and eastern India.
In this context, irrespective of political agreement or disagreement with the Forums political views, we feel that it is uncalled for and unilateral on the part of JNU administration to interpret the use of a publicly and widely available image by the Forum as a supposed violation of legal provisions. A university as acclaimed as JNU should and must have spaces to discuss, debate and deliberate on all important issues of socio-economic and political significance, as that is what this University has been known for. We are of the opinion that the JNU Administrations action is an infringement of students democratic and political rights. It is the curtailment both of students freedom to hold and convey their political views as well as of the freedom of artistic expressions. The Administration is setting dangerous precedents through the Proctorial Enquiry and these circulars, which will harm the widely known and acclaimed democratic culture of the JNU campus.
We strongly condemn this authoritarian and arbitrary act of the administration, which is nothing but stifling the voices of dissent that is the backbone of any democratic society. We demand that the JNU administration stop the ongoing Proctorial Enquiry on the students associated with the JNU Forum against War on People. We also demand that it withdraws the circulars issued by the Chief Proctors office on 19 May 2011 with immediate effect.