Education

‘Stop Victimising JNU’s Nivedita Menon’, Academics Write to President Ram Nath Kovind

The petition demands that Menon be reinstated immediately as chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory at JNU.

Nivedita Menon. Credit: Sylwia Mierzinska

More than 1800 scholars, artists, journalists, filmmakers and others have signed a petition in support of Nivedita Menon, professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been facing harassment from the university authorities. The petition, accompanied by a letter signed by Judith Butler (professor of comparative literature, University of Berkeley, California) and Partha Chatterjee (professor of anthropology, Columbia University, New York), has been submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind.

Earlier this month, the executive council of JNU removed Menon from chairpersonship of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), in a statement, had claimed that her removal was an act of intimidation and insult by the university vice-chancellor because she asserted the need for correct procedure, impartiality and integrity in selection panels. A writ petition on the supersession of the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) rules and procedures and the dissolution of the committee was filed in the Delhi high court.

The letter has requested Kovind to “use your good offices to immediately intervene in the matter and restore the atmosphere of healthy debate for which JNU has been recognised in the entire academic world.”

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Petition in support of Menon

An appeal to the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University to stop the victimisation of Professor Nivedita Menon of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International Studies.

We the undersigned are deeply concerned by the persistent hounding of Nivedita Menon, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies. She has just been removed as chairperson of her Centre, three months prior to the official end of her term. Most surprisingly, this has been done without informing her of any reason for this decision or even giving her the opportunity to explain her position, as is the convention. This shameful victimization of Professor Menon appears to have been triggered by her dissent on the procedural lapses in the constitution of selection committees to appoint new faculty, something she was morally and duty bound to do so. In contravention of JNU’s statutes and to influence the selection process, the Vice Chancellor has been adding committee members from outside the list of academic experts provided by the various Schools and Centres. This is what Professor Menon objected to. Her sudden removal as Chair of her Centre is an attack on the intellectual and moral freedom to dissent on ideas, procedures, and values.

The University Administration has also constituted a committee to look into the “alleged” role played by Professor Menon in instigating students at an Academic Council meeting held in December 2016. These charges are blatantly false and the only reason she is being persistently hounded is to warn other teachers of what could happen to them if they do not comply. The administration has decided to let the constant threat of disciplinary action become their chosen mode to silence the teaching community and prevent them from asking questions about the gross violation of norms and procedures being followed by the University.

Instead of recognizing Professor Menon for her academic scholarship, her international reputation and her commitment to pedagogy, the JNU Administration has let loose a pattern of vindictiveness to create a poisonous and terrifying environment where our basic rights are being systematically taken away. The repeated and aggressi ve assault on Professor Menon’s right to speak, question and have opinions is now taking a sinister turn. In light of all the incidents this country has witnessed in the recent past, we have to collectively demand that the University must immediately cease the constant targeting of Professor Menon who has been one of the most committed, popular and dedicated teachers on campus.

We appeal to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Authorities to withdraw the specious charges against Professor Menon and stop this cycle of repeated attacks on her democratic rights. Professor Menon should be reinstated immediately as chairperson of her Centre and allowed to perform her duties until the end of her term in December. We also appeal to the University to withdraw the baseless enquiry set up against her.

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Some of the signatories include:

Martha C. Nussbaum, The University of Chicago , USA
Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University, USA
Etiene Balibar (Columbia University, USA and Kingston University, UK)
Michael Taussig (Columbia University, USA)
Arjun Appadurai (New York University, USA)
Judith Butler (University of California, Berkley, USA)
Wendy Brown (University of California, Berkley, USA)
Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Brian Massumi (University of Montreal)
Erin Manning (University of Concordia, Canada)
Joan Mencher (City University of New York, USA)
Janelle Reinelt (University of Warwick, UK)
Shirin Rai (University of Warwick, U.K))
Tracy Davis (Northwestern University, USA)
Robin Jeffrey (Australian National University, Australia)
Homi Bhabha (Harvard University, USA)
Emma Tarlo (University of Goldsmith, UK)
Rahul Mehrotra (Harvard University, USA)
Sudipta Kaviraj (Columbia University, USA)
Ania Loomba (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
Gyan Prakash (Princeton University, USA)
Rajeshwari Sunderajan (New York University, USA)
Amrita Chhachhi (International Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands)
Toby Miller (University of California, Riverside, USA)
William Mazzarella (University of Chicago)A. Mangai, Theatreperson, India
Achin Vanaik, Delhi University, India
Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth, India
Aparna Sen, Film Actor, India
Arjun Appadurai, New York University , USA
Gauhar Raza, Retired Chief Scientist CSIR, India
Prabhat Patnaik, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
S Anand, Navayana, India
Sharmila Tagore, Film Actor, India
Udaya Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University , India
Urvashi Butalia, Zubaan Publishers, India