New Delhi: Over 400 academics and researchers from the US, India, South Africa, Germany among other, associated with some of the world’s top universities, have expressed “distress” at the situation in Jammu & Kashmir (K&K) and have demanded immediate lifting of the lockdown, opening of communication lines as well as removal of curbs on media to carry forward their duties.
In the letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council during its 42nd session in Geneva, Switzerland, which was made public by Stand With Kashmir, an organisation of Kashmiri diaspora, the academics decried the Indian government’s abrogation of the 70-year-old Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution without consulting the people of the state. The signatories belong to a wide range of subjects in premier institutions, such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown and Brown universities as well Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma and Rutgers, among many others.
“As people of conscience who are committed to the principles of freedom, dignity and justice, we refuse to remain silent as India – which touts itself as the international community’s largest democracy – continues its assault on due process, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press,” reads the letter.
The letter said its demands for lifting of the blackout, release of detainees and allowing news organisations to work without fear and “intimidation, censorship or reprisal” were consistent with India’s obligations as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
As pe s people of conscience who are committed to the principles, and justice, we refuse to remain silent as India—
Prominent names among the signatories include, Cornel West, professor of practice at Harvard Divinity School and the Department of African and African American Studies; Juan Cole, history professor at University of Michigan; Michael Rothberg, 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies, UCLA; Hatem Bazian, Director of the Islamophobia Studies Center at UC-Berkeley; Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Distinguished Professor, Syracuse University; David Palumbo-Liu, Professor of Comparative Literature, Standford University; James C. Scott, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University; John Esposito, Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University; Rabab Abdulhadi, Professor Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas, San Francisco State University and Noura Erakat at Rutgers University, according to a release by Stand With Kashmir.
The signatories to the letter addressed to the UN body also include academics nearly a dozen countries, including India, UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany, the UAE, Turkey, Canada and Qatar.
Close to eight million people in J&K have been under siege for almost 50 days after the Narendra Modi government’s sudden announcement on August 5 to abrogate Article 370, taking away the state’s autonomy, and bifurcating it into two Union territories.
Since then, there has been massive troop deployment in the state, with the Indian government detaining at least 3,000 people, according to media reports.
“The academics join a growing number of voices speaking out on Kashmir. American politicians, including Bernie Sanders, Beto O’ Rourke, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Andy Levin, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Rashid Tlaib and Rep Don Beyer issued statements expressing concern about the situation in Kashmir. Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, Brad Sherman, also recently announced an upcoming Congressional hearing that will address human rights violations in Kashmir,” said the release by Stand With Kashmir, which terms itself as a “Kashmiri diaspora-led international solidarity movement that seeks to end the Indian occupation and support the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir.”
Read the full letter here.