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India: Resist the Climate of Intimidation in Academics

27 April 2012

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It is a matter of deep distress that a threat from Darul Uloom Deoband has forced Prabha Parmar, a research scholar at the Chaudhary Charan Singh University to change the topic of her post-doctoral research: Use of magic and realism in the major novels of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and Vikram Seth. Taking strong exception to the UGC’s decision to award a post-doctoral fellowship to the scholar on a topic that included Rushdie’s writings, Darul Uloom Deoband demanded “immediate remedial steps to correct the high impropriety.” Terming the award an act of ‘glorification’ of Salman Rushdie, the seminary asked for the writer to be blacklisted and for the award to be cancelled with immediate effect.

The atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by this statement led Meerut University to cancel the fellowship. Later the scholar withdrew her research proposal.

This is yet another assault on the space of scholarship and free enquiry which represents the essential character of a university. In recent months there have been many instances of academic institutions succumbing to threats issued by religious and sectarian bodies and withdrawing texts and films or modifying syllabi or curricula to please them. The point at issue is not the controversial nature of the text, because freely debating such texts is the very purpose of intellectual inquiry. Rather, the crucial point is the climate of intimidation and the thinly-disguised threat of violence that informs the language of those making such demands. They constantly remind us that their sentiments are inflamed enough to spark off bloodshed. They crush the spirit of inquiry by intimidating those who disagree with them. They assume the fake title of representatives of this or that community to enforce their claims. And our spineless authorities allow them to do this with impunity. This time it is the Deoband ulema who have claimed yet another academic victim.

We condemn the attempt of bodies like Deoband to encroach on our academic space. It is time for all Indian academicians and intellectuals who believe in the freedom of thought to firmly defend our right to free enquiry and the pursuit of knowledge. We appeal to Meerut University and the UGC to stand by the scholar and encourage her to pursue her research on a topic of her choice.

1. Aditya Nigam, CSDS

2. Amlan Dasgupta, Jadavpur Unv

3. Aniket Alam, Senior Assistant Editor, Economic and Political Weekly.

4. Anita Cherian

5. Apoorvanand , Professor, DU

6. Arma Ansari, ANHAD

7. Arshad Ajmal, Sahulat, delhi

8. Asha Bhagat

9. Ashok Vajpeyi, poet, writer

10. Biraj Patnaik, Right To Food campaign

11. Dhruva Narayan, Managing Editor, Daanish Books

12. Dilip Simeon

13. Furqan Qamar, VC Central Unv of Himachal Pradesh

14. Gauhar Raza, scientist, poet

15. Gautam Bhan

16. Harsh kapoor

17. Irfan Khalifa, television journalist

18. Ishwar Dost , Asst. Prof., CSSEIP, Goa University.

19. J Devika, Centre for development studies, Trivandrum, Kerala.

20. Jairus Banaji

21. Jamal Kidwai

22. Jyoti Punwani

23. Jyotirmay Sharma

24. Kausar Wizarat

25. Kavita Panjabi, Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla

26. Kavita Srivastava, PUCL National Secretary

27. Khairunnisa Pathan, Parwaaj

28. Khurshid Anwar

29. Mahmood Farooqui, Dastango

30. Mahtab Alam, civil rights activist and journalist

31. Manoj Mitta, Journalist

32. Mary E John,

33. Mehtab Alam

34. Moinak Biswas

35. Momin Latif

36. Mukul Sharma, Writer and Researcher

37. Musab Iqbal, Editor,

38. Naseem Mansuri, Niswan

39. Naseem Shaikh, Niswan

40. Nasiruddin Haider Khan, Journalist

41. Naveen Kishore

42. Nayanjot Lahiri, professor, DU

43. Nilanjana Gupta, Professor of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

44. Nirantar, Resource Centre for Gender & Education

45. Nivedita Menon, JNU

46. Noorjahan Ansari, Niswan

47. Noorjahan Diwan, ANHAD

48. omair anas
,cwas/sis jnu

49. Parthasarthi Bahumik, Jadavpur Unv

50. Prof Rama Kant Agnihotri (Rtd., Univ of Delhi)

51. Purwa Bharadwaj

52. Ramchandra Guha

53. Rehana Qureshi, Nyayagrah

54. Rohan D’Souza

55. S.Irfan Habib, historian

56. Satya Shivaramn

57. Satish Deshpande, DSE, DU

58. Semeen Ali

59. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist, Anhad

60. Shakeel Shaikh, Ahmedabad

61. Shamina Diwan, Parwaaj

62. Sharifa Chhipa, Niswan

63. Sheba george, Sahr waru, Gujarat

64. Shivam vij, journalist, delhi

65. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, artist/writer

66. Sohail Hashmi, Writer, Film Makerli

67. Sucheta Bhattacharjee

68. Usman Shaikh, Nyayagrah

69. Waqar Qazi, Social Activist, Anhad, Gujarat

70. Zafar Syed, banker, Mumbai