Kolkata Protest against Modi. Australian academics react

April 11, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Protest against ModiKolkata, April 10, 2013: Several groups and individuals, including students, and film actor staged protests in the city against Narendra Modi and shouted slogans, “Go back Modi” as the Gujarat Chief Minster addressed industrialists in the state capital on April 9. Modi was invited in a conference organized by MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bharat Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Chamber of Commerce at the five star ‘Grand Hotel’ in Kolkata.

The protest had started from the morning itself, by Bhasha o Chetana Samity, and supported by several leftist students’ bodies, including USDF, AISA and PDSF. Theater actors’ organization, Theater Fraternity and Minority & Dalit organization Rokeya Brigade, as well as Democratic Action Forum of Dalit Women and Minorities, Kaumi Ekta also participated in the protest.

Protestors staged drama, sang songs and read poems against Modi in front of the Hotel, holding placards that read `Go Back Modi’, `Killer of Gujrat Minorities.’ Police was, however, vigilant and stopped the agitation and drama midway. Protesters were briefly detained.

Protest against ModiSecretary of Bhasha o Chetana Samity, Professor Emanul Haque alleged that the police used the batons to disperse the protesters, in which one student of Vidyasagar College, Shuvojit Maiti was seriously injured. He has now been admitted in the SSKM Hospital.

He further said that no matter how much Modi present himself as the Development icon, he cannot escape the responsibilities of the 2002 pogroms. His development plank is hollow as Gujarat fails on several fronts, he added.

Trinamul Congress MP, Kabir Suman later visited the Police Headquarter at Lalbazar and spoke to Joint Commissioner of Police (Sadar) Jawed Shamim. All protesters were released later in the night.

Modi disinvite: Australian academics support UPenn professors

Narendra ModiNew Delhi: A group of 15 academics belonging to different universities of Melbourne, Australia have issued a statement of solidarity with University of Pennsylvania professors who led a campaign against Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Campagin by UPenn professors led to a disinvite for Modi who was supposed to be the keynote speaker at 2013 Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF).

In a statement issued today, academics at several Melbroune universities strongly condemned the “pernicious personal attacks” that has been launched against Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, and Toorjo Ghosh for their lead role in getting Modi disinvited.

Academics said that it is laughable that arguments are being made that Modi’s freedom of speech has been violated. Modi has access to huge financial and political power and continue to make his case in the gatherings of the powerful.

The statement also criticized the Congress government for its policies which is culpable of other kinds of genocidal violence in India. They said that “any “valuable dialogue on India’s growth story” is incomplete if the voices of the marginalised who bear the brunt of Modi’s, or even Ahluwalia’s, violent economic visions are not adequately represented.”

Academics also made the case for importance of humanities studies. In recent years with more emphasis on technocratic education, humanities are getting marginalizing within the university system.

“We stand in solidarity with Loomba, Kaul, Ghosh and others at UPenn who are continuing their resistance, and again reiterate our strong condemnation of the personal attacks aimed at them for their courage to speak truth to power. We demand that the UPenn administration, which has remained a silent spectator to these attacks against their own staff, take a clear stand against these right-wing forces and uphold the academic freedom to engage in critical and reasoned dialogue, to debate and dissent within the university space,” read the statement.

Melbourne Academics in Solidarity with Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Toorjo Ghosh and others at the University of Pennsylvania

We, academics and researchers based in Melbourne, strongly condemn the pernicious personal attacks against Professors Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul and Toorjo Ghosh by the Hindutva lobby at the University of Pennsylvania.

Loomba, Kaul, and Ghosh, along with others opposed Narendra Modi’s invitation as a keynote speaker to the 2013 Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF). Their protest – in the form of a letter to the WIEF organisers that gathered signatures of support from across the world – was successful in making the organisers disinvite Modi: no mean feat given the widespread support that Modi receives from several industrialists and a majority of the Hindu, upper-caste, upper/ middle classes in India, and the Indian diaspora in the US and across the world. It is necessary to emphasise that it was the organisers who disinvited Modi, and not those who lodged the protest.

There is ample evidence in the public domain – independent fact-finding reports, survivor testimonies, damning revelations by public servants, state-instituted inquiry commissions, media investigations, and statements by the Supreme Court – that points to the Gujarat state’s complicity, under Modi’s chief ministership, in meticulously planning and executing the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom.

Events since 2002 have only seen the proliferation of spirals of impunity, the celebratory hand-in-hand march of Hindutva and neoliberalism, the spectacular rise and rise of the idea of Narendra Modi, the co-option of the Muslim vote-bank by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat, the marketing and distribution of fear, the sanitisation of the public sphere in Gujarat, and the unending trials: legal and personal of the survivors.

It is in this context that the protest letter was sent to the organisers of WIEF, clearly stating the reasons for demanding that his invitation be rescinded. In response,WIEF organisers stated that they revoked the invitation because they didn’t want to put Modi in a “compromising position”. In a statement they declared: “We do not endorse any political views and do not support any specific ideology. Our goal as a team is only to stimulate valuable dialogue on India’s growth story…”

In support of the stand taken by Loomba and others at UPenn we strongly oppose such a lame and purportedly neutral posturing of liberal ideas. Inviting Modi, or for that matter even Montek Singh Ahluwalia (unelected representative of the Congress party which is also culpable of other kinds of genocidal violence in India) at WIEF is a clear indication of the ideology and practice that they wish to follow. Any “valuable dialogue on India’s growth story” is incomplete if the voices of the marginalised who bear the brunt of Modi’s, or even Ahluwalia’s, violent economic visions are not adequately represented.

Many have accused those who resisted Modi’s invitation of muzzling freedom of speech. Hindutva and other right-wing protesters outside the UPenn English Department (where Loomba and Kaul teach) recently carried placards with slogans like ‘Free Speech Killed at Wharton, by the English Department’ and ‘UPenn English Dept.: Intellectual Al-Qaeda’. Clearly, in this case, the academic freedom to dissent and take unpopular political positions against the powerful is being equated with censoring Modi’s freedom of speech.

This accusation against Loomba, Kaul and others is at best laughable, and at worst tragic. It is laughable because it is oblivious to the different capacity to speak and be heard that characterises the distinction between a handful of academics resisting Modi, and Modi himself, whose huge popularity among rich industrialists keep him in a deified position of financial and political power. It is tragic because in the name of upholding freedom of speech these accusations against the dissenting professors are in fact an attempt at gagging their academic freedom.

Yet, what has been remarkable about the protest is that it has indeed succeeded in actually resisting Modi’s presence, albeit virtual, at the WIEF. The protests have successfully contaminated the antiseptic discussions on economic growth in India that happens at similar gatherings of the powerful (notably, the India Today Conclave, Google Tech Summit and FICCI meet recently) who want Modi to share his story of Gujarat’s so-called economic miracle, without questioning its violent foundations and accompaniments.

This success brings to light the acute importance of the humanities within any university. In today’s neoliberal academy where technocratic education and courses are fast marginalising the humanities, this incident foregrounds the value of humanities education and need for those of us within the discipline of the humanities to resist its marginalisation. The protests outside the English Department at UPenn are a clear indication of how fascist forces actually fear the humanities.

We stand in solidarity with Loomba, Kaul, Ghosh and others at UPenn who are continuing their resistance, and again reiterate our strong condemnation of the personal attacks aimed at them for their courage to speak truth to power. We demand that the UPenn administration, which has remained a silent spectator to these attacks against their own staff, take a clear stand against these right-wing forces and uphold the academic freedom to engage in critical and reasoned dialogue, to debate and dissent within the university space.

Ben Silverstein, La Trobe University

Bina Fernandez, University of Melbourne

Debolina Dutta, University of Melbourne

Dianne Otto, University of Melbourne

Erica Millar, Deakin University

Fazal Rizvi, University of Melbourne

Jordy Silverstein, Monash University

Julia Dehm, University of Melbourne

Oishik Sircar, University of Melbourne

Patrick Wolfe, La Trobe University

Rajdeep Ghosh, La Trobe University

Randal Sheppard, La Trobe University

Sagar Sanyal, University of Melbourne

Sara Dehm, University of Melbourne

Sundhya Pahuja, University of Melbourne

Melbourne, 10 April, 2013

– tcn

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