CAMBRIDGE, MA—A group of Harvard University students organized a rally Thursday evening to express their solidarity with the students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University which has been in turmoil since Feb. 12 when the Indian government ordered the police to enter the campus and arrest a student leader. (Lead:adds rally)
About 35 Harvard students and supporters joined together in freezing cold in solidarity with JNU at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA.
“We stood in support of JNU,” said Chandrashekhar Tibrewal, a Boston resident and a former student leader in JNU who attended the rally. “It personally made me happier.”
In an earlier interview prior to the rally, Tibrewal had said that the Indian government is trying to impose Hindu nationalism by cracking down on students.
“It is not about JNU anymore. I think the country is in serious danger of losing everything and all the democratic systems that have been built over 50 years,” Tibrewal to INDIA New England News. “The current Indian government is out to silence all intelligent conversations in the country. They want to impose Hindu nationalism all across.”
The rally by the Harvard University students was held at 4:00 PM at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, to express solidarity with the students and faculty of JNU.
They said that the Indian government ordered the police to enter one the most reputed institutes of higher education in the country and arrest a student. The charge against him was “anti-national sloganeering” and he was arrested under sedition laws.
“This incident reflects the current government’s authoritarian tendencies to stifle dissent in a thriving democracy. The government and some sections of the media have reduced the discourse to one of nationalism. That is not the debate,” Harvard University students organizing the rally said on their event page. “The current debate is about freedom of speech and autonomy of institutions. As the largest democracy, India was founded on the bedrock of freedom of expression and tolerance. While we may vehemently disagree with what the other has to say, we will fight for the other’s right to say it with equal vehemence.”
Meanwhile, thousands of students from universities and colleges across New Delhi staged a massive protest here on Thursday to condemn the arrest of JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges.
The students, who massed near Mandi House in the heart of Delhi, demanded the immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar, who was sent to judicial custody till March 2 by a court on Wednesday.
The students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Milia Islamia took part in the protest, shouting slogans like ‘Janwad pe hamla band karo’ (End attacks on democracy).
Delhi Police arrested Kanhaiya Kumar on February 12 for allegedly raising anti-India slogans at an event in the JNU campus. He has denied the charge.
Several teachers, lawyers, activists, theatre artists and journalists also took part in the protest to express their solidarity with the agitating students.
Police say anti-India slogans were raised at the campus meeting organised to mark the the hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) co-founder Maqbool Bhat.