Petition: Assault on Democracy

To: The President of India
The President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi – 110 004.

Dear Madam Visitor,
Subject: Assault on Democracy

On 18 February 2010, the Delhi Police presented a charge-sheet against Mr. Kobad Ghandy. This document also alleges criminal activities, and support for criminal activities, against several individuals and organisations that have been active in safeguarding and promoting civil and democratic rights, for several decades now. These organisations and individuals have been actively protesting the violation of civil and democratic rights of large numbers of people in the context of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ – the government’s military offensive against ‘Maoists’. Several of those affected by the allegations in the charge-sheet are members of the academic community of Universities in Delhi, who also happen to share in the work and activities of the organisations identified in it.

The allegations against these individuals and organisations are utterly baseless and unsubstantiated; they consequently appear to be motivated solely by the government’s intention to silence all such protests, and to criminalise all such legitimate and democratic activities. This is in continuation with intensifying attempts by the state to curtail spaces for democratic dissent and protest, within and outside the university, and indeed, to erode the very principles of democracy.

Worldwide, universities have traditionally been a crucial space for freedom of expression, the exploration of ideas and critical debate. They have always been, and should always be, sites where even the strongest critique of the state can be – in fact, must and should be – made possible. This is an essential character, not just of the university as an institution, but of the democratic principles of the society it exists in. The attempt to silence these individuals and organisations, therefore constitutes an assault on this very fundamental essence of the university, as well as on the character of democratic society.

We would like to unequivocally affirm that, for the university to remain a space in which democratic principles and practices are sacrosanct and inviolable, the voices that emerge from it must be allowed to do so freely. We consequently also strongly condemn attempts like the baseless allegations in the charge-sheet, to violate precisely this quality of the university and its community.

We request you, in your capacity as Visitor of Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, to intervene and protect the universities and their communities from such assaults. We also request you to ensure that the individuals and organisations targeted in the charge-sheet are not victimised by the baselessly punitive and retributive actions of the state, and that their civil and democratic rights are upheld.

Sincerely,

PLEASE SIGN

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