Nature denounces violence inside India’s university campuses

JNU violence edited

Nature has, in an editorial, denounced the violent attack on students inside university campuses. The “government and state authorities must step in and stop violent attacks on academic campuses” it says.

In an editorial published on January 14, 2020, Nature, one of the most respected and reputed journals in the world, has said that the “government and state authorities must step in and stop violent attacks on academic campuses”. The comment comes in the wake of the January 5 violent attacks on students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi.

This is the first time a scientific journal has denounced the violent attacks on students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Soon after the government diluted Article 370 in Kashmir, The Lancet had written an editorial underlining the deaths and gross human rights violations by security forces and armed groups, and mental health crisis in Kashmir due to prolonged “instability”.

Nature says: “Some of the peaceful protests are being met with violence, and university campuses are not immune… On the evening of 5 January, people wearing masks and carrying iron rods, stones and wooden clubs entered the campus and launched an attack.” Citing Human Rights Watch, the journal specifically mentions that Delhi police “failed to provide protection” to the students who were being attacked. On January 5 evening, a mob of 50-100 unleashed violence on both students and a few professors of the institute for nearly three hours.

Nature also mentions the unbridled violence by police on students inside the campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

Saying that supporters of the government are upset at students and academics who are opposing the CAA, the journal says: “They must know that freedom of expression is core to a university’s mission; that the ability of citizens to protest peacefully against government policies is a right, not a privilege; and that the state should provide protection for such dissent.” It then adds: “Without it, no opposition would be able to present its case to the public — as members of the current government and its supporters did in the years they were out of power.”

Saying that academics inside and outside India are justified in speaking up against violence insides campuses that is causing fear, the journal says: “India’s authorities must take the necessary steps to protect their nation’s universities and their people’s freedom of speech.”

The editorial ends by quoting Principal Scientific Adviser Prof. K. VijayaRaghavan: “Campuses are places for learning, discussion, collegial debate amongst diverse opinions, and research. There is no place at all for violence.”

Published in The Hindu on January 15, 2020