“Disagreement is a necessary condition of public life; individuals and groups have no right to take law into their own hands to intimidate and physically assault social thinkers and intellectuals like Illaiah.”
New Delhi: The University of Hyderabad SC/ST Faculty Forum has issued a statement to “express our anguish and strongly condemn the physical attack and the continued threats being issued to Prof Kancha IIaiah Shepherd”.
Shepherd has alleged that he has been receiving threatening phone calls and has filed a police complaint about it. Arya Vysya associations have recently been protesting against Shepherd’s book, Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu, claiming that the title of the book and some of its content are derogatory and demeaning. The BJP has officially condemned the author and the book, while a parliamentarian of the Telugu Desam Party from the Vysya community has sought a change in the laws of the country so the author can be hanged publicly.
“Since yesterday, many unknown phone calls kept coming and when I answered, they abused me. The International Arya-Vysya Sangham headed by K. Ramakrishna condemned my writings on a TV channel. Someone threatened to cut my tongue. My effigies have been burnt. I feel terribly threatened by their abuses, phone calls and messages. If anything happens to me they will be responsible,” Shepherd told Indian Express after he filed his police complaint.
The SC/ST Faculty Forum has said in their statement:
Intellectuals like Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Pansare and Dabholkar have been killed in the recent past for their strong views on majoritarian religion and social practices. The country is witnessing a period of unrelenting incivility in the conduct of public life. There is an utter lack of education about sensible reasoning and social sympathy and in its place social apathy and communal concerns reign supreme. In our view, Prof Illaiah, a provocative thinker, has continuously addressed the issue of civil wisdom and questioned the moral and ethical edifice of caste in contemporary India.
We believe that intellectuals are entitled to express their opinion and their views ought to be subjected to public scrutiny and reasoning. However, disagreement is a necessary condition of public life; individuals and groups have no right to take law into their own hands to intimidate and physically assault social thinkers and intellectuals like Illaiah. Dalit Bahujan students across the country hold him in high esteem and he inspires confidence in them. Elite liberal and secular scholarship which uses sophisticated vocabularies to undermine the presence of these students in Universities and higher educational institutions have felt insecure with Prof Illaiah’s intellectual and political position. We once again reiterate our concern for the safety and security of Prof. Illaiah.
Earlier this week, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust had also issued a statement supporting Shepherd and his freedom of expression.