Leading World Scholars Rally to JNU Professor’s Defence

Nivedita Menon. Credit: Pradeep Jeganathan

Nivedita Menon. Credit: Pradeep Jeganathan

In response to a police complaint filed by the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata party against JNU professor Nivedita Menon for statements she made in a lecture about Kashmir, a group of leading academics and scholars from around the world have issued a statement calling on the university authorities to defend the feminist scholar and “protect the sanctity of university debate”.

 Vicious Campaign against Feminist Scholar

We, the undersigned, wish to express our shock and indignation at the vicious right wing media campaign conducted over the past few days against well-known feminist scholar and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Nivedita Menon.

This media campaign mischievously decontextualises her lecture at the public teach-in programme in JNU with the use of selective clips and inflammatory commentary.

The television channel Zee has led the main campaign by branding Professor Menon as ‘anti-national’ and instigating viewers to take action. Such branding is tantamount to a television channel acting as both judge and jury, and directly placing an individual’s rights and safety under threat.

The use of television media to attack intellectuals and instigate vigilante action is a feature of authoritarian regimes worldwide.  Similar tendencies are visible in recent months in India. Singling out individuals and creating a mass-frenzy against them by using the medium of TV is a dangerous trend that directly incites and encourages violence. This is a deep disregard for any process of law.

We saw Zee TV do this earlier when doctored videos became the basis of arrest and harassment of JNU students. In this case, Twitter and social media campaigns have followed attacks on Professor Menon, demanding the framing of sedition charges against her and wielding open threats of rape. Most disturbingly, there are media reports of police complaints filed by interested parties demanding ‘action’ against Professor Menon.

Professor Menon is a renowned scholar and feminist thinker; her texts are used in university syllabi worldwide. As a prominent scholar and activist she has intervened in academic and public debates for decades. Professor Menon has also been known as an inspiring teacher for 30 years, guiding generations of students who now work in India and abroad. She has never shied away from intellectual debate in academic and public forums, passionately intervening in debates on feminism and social theory. This is the first time that her own freedom to articulate her ideas has been so viciously attacked in an orchestrated media campaign.

The freedom to articulate ideas is the basis of a university. When opinions voiced in a public lecture by an academic are made part of a selective media campaign that seeks not to debate but simply to malign, both democracy and the university are under threat.

What is under question are not just Professor Menon’s ideas but also the very freedom for academics and citizens. We condemn this media campaign and associated threats, urging all academics and intellectuals to stand with Professor Menon at this time.

We call on the Vice Chancellor of JNU to swiftly defend Professor Menon from such attacks and protect the sanctity of university debate.

We urge the JNU administration to stand by its faculty’s right to hold individual opinions and condemn all efforts to diminish this. We call on the university to immediately ensure that freedoms that form its very academic basis are not eroded in this moment. We call further for every censure and action against the unlawful actions of the television channels in question. Finally, we urge all well wishers of a democratic India to stand by Professor Menon for their own freedoms, and not just hers.

        1. Gananath Obeyesekere, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Princeton University
        2. Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
        3. Mahmood Mamdani, Professor of Government and International Affairs, Columbia University
        4. Gopal Guru, Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
        5. Sumit Sarkar, former Professor of History, University of Delhi
        6. Tanika Sarkar, Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University
        7. Sudhir Chandra, historian based in Delhi
        8. Nayanjot Lahiri, Professor of History, Ashoka University.
        9. Mrinalini Sinha, Professor, University of Michigan
        10. Timothy Mitchell, Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University
        11. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Professor of History, University of Chicago, USA
        12. Gyan Prakash, Professor of History, Princeton University
        13. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Professor of History, UCLA
        14. Homi Bhabha, Professor of English and Director, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University
        15. Rosalind C. Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
        16. David Hardiman, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Warwick
        17. Akeel Bilgrami, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
        18. Veena Das, Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
        19. Ania Loomba, Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
        20. Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York
        21. Sundar Sarukkai, Professor of Philosophy, Manipal University
        22. Pradeep Jeganathan, Professor of Sociology,Shiv Nadar University
        23. Kavita Panjabi, Professor, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
        24. Isabel Hofmeyr, Professor of African Languages and Literature, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
        25. Shireen Hassim, Professor of Political Science, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
        26. Srila Roy, Professor of Sociology, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
        27. Kelly Gillespie, Professor of Anthropology, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa
        28. Ivor Chipkin, Director Public Affairs Research Institute, Johannesburg
        29. Premesh Lalu, Professor, Director, DST/NRF Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities, University of the Western Cape
        30. Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor, Columbia University
        31. Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies,Columbia University, New York
        32. Hamid Dabashi, Professor, Columbia University, New York
        33. Firdous Azim, Department of English and Humanities, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
        34. Kama Maclean, Associate Professor, South Asian and World History, School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW Australia
        35. Ashwin, Independent Researcher, based in Azim Premji University, Bangalore
        36. V. J. Varghese, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Hyderabad
        37. José Emilio Burucúa, Fellow member of the Institut d’Études Avancées, Nantes, France
        38. Danai Mupotsa, Lecturer, African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
        39. Vashna Jagarnath, Senior Lecturer, History Department, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
        40. Thiven Reddy, Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town
        41. Ruchi Chaturvedi, Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
        42. Patrick Olivelle, Professor, University of Texas at Austin, USA
        43. Sambuddha Sen, Professor, Shiv Nadar University
        44. Hina Saiyada, Filmmaker, Mumbai
        45. Asanda Benya, University of Cape Town, Dept of Sociology, South Africa
        46. Ravindran Sriramachandran, Dept. of Anthropology/ Sociology, Ashoka University
        47. Koni Benson, University of Cape Town
        48. Vedita Cowaloosur, Postdoc Fellow at Stellenbosch University, South Africa
        49. Enocent Msindo, Associate Professor of History, Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa
        50. Naledi Nomalanga Mkhize, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
        51. Shari Daya, University of Cape Town, South Africa
        52. Heidi Grunebaum, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
        53. Francis Cody, Associate Professor Anthropology and Asian Institute, University of Toronto
        54. Jinee Lokaneeta, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Drew University, United States of America
        55. Tamara Shefer, Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
        56. Richard Pithouse, Professor, Rhodes University, South Africa
        57. Ayesha Kidwai, Centre for Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
        58. Mary John, Professor, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi
        59. Ravi S Vasudevan, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        60. Rochelle Pinto, Academic based in Delhi
        61. Tarangini Sriraman, Visiting Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        62. Vipin Kumar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        63. Parthasarathi Muthukaruppan, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad
        64. Lawrence Liang, Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
        65. Ujjwal Kumar Singh, Professor, Dept of Political Science, University of Delhi
        66. Awadhendra Sharan, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        67. Ravikant, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        68. Udaya Kumar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
        69. Rita Kothari, Professor, IIT Gandhinagar
        70. Rakesh Pandey, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        71. Shilpa Phadke, Assistant Professor, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
        72. Sunalini Kumar, Visiting Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        73. Priyadarshini Vijaisri, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        74. Shail Mayaram, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
        75. Satish Deshpande, Professor, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
        76. Aarti Sethi, Doctoral Researcher, Columbia University, New York
        77. Abhay Kumar Dubey, Director, Indian Languages Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, De;hi
        78. Manoranjan Mohanty, Professor, Centre for Social Development, Delhi
        79. Yengkhom Jilangamba, Academic based in Delhi
        80. Anupama Roy, Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU, Delhi
        81. Janaki Nair, Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, Delhi
        82. Rukun Advani, Publisher, Permanent Black, Ranikhet
        83. Anuradha Roy, Publisher, Permanent Black, Ranikhet
        84. Lyla Mehta, Professor, Institute of Development Studies, UK
        85. Michael Neocosmos, Professor and Director UHURU, Rhodes University, South Africa
        86. Dhammamegha Annie Leatt, Research Associate, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research Wits University, Johannesburg
        87. Tarun Bhartiya, Filmmaker, Member Thma U Rangli Juki(TUR), Meghalaya
        88. Rasigan Maharajh, Chief Director, Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
        89. Polo Moji, Lecturer, French and Francophone Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
        90. Mathe Ntsekhe, National University of Lesotho
        91. Shohini Ghosh, Professor, AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia
        92. Sabeena Gadihoke, Associate Professor, AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia
        93. Sabina Kidwai. Associate Professor,AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia
        94. Moinak Biswas, Professor, Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
        95. Pradip K Datta, Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, SIS, JNU
        96. Kaushik Ghosh, Anthropologist, University of Texas at Austin, USA
        97. Sarada Balagopalan, Associate Professor, Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, USA
        98. Maurits van Bever Donker, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape
        99. Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya, Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU
        100. Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Professor, Dept of Political Science, University of Calcutta
        101. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, New Delhi
        102. Saroj Giri, Dept of Political Science, University of Delhi
        103. Sunita Thakur, Journalist, BBC
        104. Kelly Gillespie, Head, Department of Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
        105. Aparna Balachandran, Department of History, University of Delhi
        106. C.P.Geevan, Independent Researcher, Ahmedabad
        107. Ashish Kothari, Pune
        108. Sharad Chari, Professor of Anthropology, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg
        109. Abhinav Kumar, Researcher, Azim Premji Foundation
        110. Neema Pathak Broome, member Kalpavriksh, Pune
        111. Charu Gupta, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi
        112. Projit Bihari Mukharji, Assistant Professor, History & Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
        113. Camalita Naicker, PhD Candidate, UHURU, Rhodes University South Africa, Former Student at JNU
        114. Satadru Sen, Professor of History, Queens College & Graduate Center, City University of New York
        115. Noosim Naimasiah, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Kampala, Uganda
        116. Alexandra Muller, Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa
        117. Rohan D’ Souza, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University
        118. Jonathan Gil Harris, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of English, Ashoka University
        119. Geeta Patel, Director, UVA in India Program, Associate Professor, University of Virginia
        120. Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, Dept. of Feminist Studies University of California, Santa Cruz
        121. Raka Ray Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
        122. Maya Krishna Rao, Artiste, Delhi
        123. Suvir Kaul, Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania
        124. Nathaniel Roberts, Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
        125. David Kazanjian, Professor of English, Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, University of Pennsylvania
        126. Mukul Kesavan, Dept of History, Jamia Millia Islamia
        127. Lakshmi Subramanian, Professor of History, Centre for the Study of Social Sciences, Kolkata
        128. Rosinka Chaudhuri, Professor of Cultural Studies, CSSS, Kolkata
        129. Rimli Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow in Cultural Studies, CSSS, Kolkata
        130. Ritajyoti Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Professor of Sociology, CSSS, Kolkata
        131. Kiran Kesavamurthy, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, CSSS, Kolkata
        132. Prachi Deshpande, Associate Professor of History, CSSS, Kolkata
        133. Suren Pillay, Associate Professor, Center for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
        134. Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
        135. Ravi Sundaram, Professor, CSDS, Delhi
        136. Shirin M. Rai, Professor, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick
        137. Madhusree Mukherjee, Writer
        138. Aniket Alam, Executive Editor, Economic and Political Weekly
        139. Alice Morris, Director, PeopleCan Services, Ahmedabad
        140. Kian Tajbakhsh,Visiting Professor of Urban Planning, Columbia University, New York
  • Pulla Reddy

    I am the public. i saw her video. I did not find anything wrong in what she spoke. Kashmir is a disputed area, hence it is lingering in the UN. Want to Kashmir to be part of India, first win over the people. If we use army to hold on to Kashmir, we are only proving that the professor is right.

    • Laneesh Kumar

      I will make two quick points 1)The decision to Make it an international Issue was not taken by the cabinet.The Interest of Nehru was the sole reason.It cannot stand the test of time.2)The Instrument of Accession was irretrievable.3)Its Not by asking each of the people that you form a country like India.Even erstwhile princes of Travencore wanted Azadi. Do you support it Now?

  • Shubhra

    It would be great if she were being asked to defend her statements as that would lead to a healthy discussion but, unfortunately, that is not what the news channel has done. It is unbelievable but true that they repeatedly state that they will let viewers decide what to make of the speech by just playing her lecture for them but apart from a few selective minutes of her speech, the anchor is giving a constant running commentary and putting words in her mouth while her lecture is being played for the viewers. You can’t even hear her to verify if that is actually what she is saying or not!! I don’t think that counts as an editorial opinion. Plus, for things she hasn’t actually said, they have put lines in quotes and projected them on the screen next to her photo in order to imply very obviously, that she made those statements in the course of her speech. They are banking on the fact that most of their viewers will actually not google her speech and listen to it for themselves…
    I repeat this is unbelievable because one expects a minimum sense of ethics from journalists, but it’s true…just watch the videos on youtube, of the show and of her lecture…
    In case you think the commentary was for a language issue, her speech was in Hindi, with very few bits in English, so they didn’t need to translate…

  • Shubhra

    My question is that a lot of years and a lot of unfortuante violence has taken place since Nehru’s time. Is it right for all Indians to keep saying that Kashmir is a part of India but then to continue to treat Kashmiris like lesser citizens. If they are as Indian as us, when they are suffering, isn’t it our duty to listen and help?! Can there be degrees to Indianness? Shouldn’t a Kashmiri feel as safe and secure in Kashmir as I do in my home town? And if they are not feeling safe, who is to blame? Personally, I think the whole issue is SO complicated that even the Kashmiris won’t have an easy answer to how to solve the problem. I don’t believe they want to go to Pakistan because we all know India is a freer country than Pakistan. However, right now they feel India isn’t treating them as equal citizens and they don’t want that either.
    To try to imagine how they feel, I think about it this way. When you see the police somewhere, the first instinct is to be afraid because obviously something serious has happened that they are present. Now imagine seeing the police constantly, at the entry to your colony, at the entry to your workplace, on the streets, everyday, all the time! Now replace police with armed soldiers and the knowledge that if they suspect you of something, they can shoot you or beat you up and you can take absolutely NO action against them legally. You can’t even complain about them. Now remember that soldiers are human and that some people may be suspicious than others, some people can be mean, some people have big egos and might get offended if you use a wrong tone and they know that they have full power over you. Would you feel safe seeing them everywhere? Not knowing who will really protect you and who might try to take advantage of you or your family members…

  • Venkata Bonam

    If treating people is not good that has to be fixed. But no part of India can be a point of discussion if it belongs it India or not.

  • Fire

    Of course. ….no wonder ! U HAVE TO B !

  • NewHorizons

    Whether we like her views or not – we should counter her views or facts with better views and facts not with FIRs. All this shows loss of intellectualism and the growth of fanaticism in the nation – once it was in politics and now it seems in the field of education also… Also people talk about wastage of tax payers money on JNU but I the biggest wastage of tax payers money is on our MLAs and MPs they enjoy our money, loot our nation and they divide us on names, spread hatred and violence to achieve their selfish goals…Are there any stalwarts like Lal bahadurs?