Sangh Samachar

MSU redux (on the continued targeting of Professor Shivji Panikkar)

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the continued targeting of Professor Shivji Panikkar of Maharaja Sayajirao University, and his allies. The Sangh Parivar’s actions constitute an attack on civil liberties and academic freedom, and violate the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of information.

The Sangh Parivar attacked and disrupted the National Student’s Festival for Peace Communal Harmony and Justice on July 6, 2007. The organizers at Anhad, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, had invited Professor Shivji Panikkar to inaugurate an exhibition of student artworks. On his arrival, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist/extremist) mob surrounded Professor Panikkar’s car, shouting slogans. When Professor Panikkar stepped out of the car, he was physically assaulted. The mob proceeded to throw bricks and an iron drum at the car, injuring the driver and smashing the windshield. Police intelligence, it has been made known, was involved and informed the crowd of the arrival of uniformed police, which allowed the mob to disperse.

On July 8, Deepak Kanna, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University resigned in protest of the attack on Professor Panikkar. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has called for Professor Panikkar’s exile from Gujarat, and the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) began a signature campaign on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus on July 11 in protest of Professor Panikkar’s alleged comments on Hindu bhajans (devotional songs).

Earlier this year, on May 11, 2007, Shivji Panikkar, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University, was suspended by the university administration from his appointment, for upholding a student’s academic right to freedom of expression. Sangh Parivar groups had attacked student Chandra Mohan’s works, displayed as part of an examination procedure, and had the artist arrested on May 9, 2007. Other students protested Chandra Mohan’s arrest by exhibiting erotic works from the school’s archives on the faculty porch, which the administration ordered to be shut down, which Professor Panikkar refused. The attacks against them had forced both Professor Panikkar and Chandra Mohan into seclusion out of fear for their lives.

We also condemn that such targeting has become indicative of the culture of fear and repression that is allowed to continue in Gujarat, where, following the genocide against Muslims in February-March of 2002, insufficient and negligent action has been taken to bring restorative justice to the survivors of the brutal, gendered and sexualized, violence. Failure to apprehend and bring to trial the perpetrators of criminal acts on the part of the Gujarat state administration has continued to subject minority and disenfranchised communities to a reign of terror. These acts of violence and repression are produced in particular by the complicity of state and national governments. The Government of India has failed to restore democracy by holding accountable the perpetrators, including the Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other government and law enforcement officials for the state’s proven complicity in aiding and abetting the violence of 2002. The Government of India has also failed to hold accountable the perpetrators among the cadre of Sangh Parivar groups for inflicting the violence, and, as applicable, refused to revoke their charitable status.

OUR DEMANDS

  • We call for an immediate inquiry into the events that targeted Professor Shivji Panikkar.
  • We demand that the as yet outstanding case against Chandra Mohan be dismissed.
  • We ask that suitable action be taken against the perpetrators.
  • We demand that the police take official cognizance of the documentation produced by ANHAD, Act Now for Democracy and Harmony, regarding the identity of the perpetrators, rather than restricting its actions to filing a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown assailants.
  • We call for the restoration of Professor Panikkar’s appointment.
  • We call for the restoration of law and order, and academic freedom, on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus. In this regard, we demand accountability from the Vice-Chancellor of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Manoj Saini, who has direct responsibility for maintaining academic freedom on campus.
  • We call for an independent inquiry into the activities of Sangh Parivar organizations that are involved in this case, such as the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • We call for an independent and impartial judicial enquiry into the government’s repeated inability or refusal to maintain law and order.

SIGNATORIES

Organizations

1. GMAA, Gujarati Muslim Association of America
2. AIM, Association of Indian Muslims of America
3. CSDI, Coalition for a Secular and Democratic India
4. CSFH, Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
5. Dharma Megha
6. Educational Subscription Service
7. FIACONA, Federation of Indian American Organizations of North America
8. Friends of South Asia
9. India Development Society
10. India Foundation
11. IACP, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
12. ICF, Indian Christian Forum
13. Indian Muslim Council-USA
14. IMEFNA, Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America International Service Society
15. INSAF, International South Asia Forum Bulletin
16. Non-Resident Indians Coalition for Justice
17. Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
18. SANSAD, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
19. Seva International
20. Supporters of Human Rights in India
21. Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment
22. Vedanata Society of East Lansing
23. Washington Watch

Individuals
(Note: Organizational affiliations for individuals are listed for identification purposes only)

1. George Abraham
2. Rasheed Ahmed
3. Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
4. Rebecca Kurian
5. Dr. Khursheed Mallick
6. Saeed Patel, Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
7. Devesh Poddar, Director, Washington Watch Incorporated, East Lansing, Michigan
8. Mayurika Poddar, Director, India Foundation of Michigan
9. Shrikumar Poddar, President, Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan
10. Raju Rajagopal
11. Dr. K. S. Sripada Raju, Director, International Service Society, East Lansing, Michigan
12. Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University
13. Amin Tejani, President, Shanti International, East Lansing, Michigan
14. Dr. Shaik Ubaid, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
15. Sandeep Vaidya


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