Fine Arts Faculty Violence sign now

The Governor of Gujarat

We write to you in your capacity as the Visitor to the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. We strongly condemn the recent actions of the group of people with affiliations to Hindu supremacist groups, who barged into the Fine Arts campus, disrupted the examination and abused and threatened students and faculty members. Such attempts to stifle by force the rights to free speech and expression of individuals, and to impose on society in general the narrow perceptions of certain sections regarding what is permissible and what is not, constitute a serious threat to democratic institutions and practices.

The response of the University authorities to these events has, if anything, been even more disturbing than the actions of these self-appointed guardians of morality. Far from acting to protect the academic interests and the notions of autonomy and academic freedom which are so central to the very concept of a university, the University authorities have actually acted in concert with the hooligans who are threatening the functioning of the university. Where they should have initiated prompt legal action against the intruders and against the police who illegally entered the campus and arrested a student, and where they were duty-bound to make every effort to secure the immediate release of the student (who was released on bail after 5 days in custody), the University authorities chose to look the other way. Most shocking of all is the fact that the Vice-Chancellor subsequently advised the victims of the attack - students and faculty of the Fine Arts Faculty to apologise for the events. Not content with this, the University administration further took the unprecedented step of suspending Dr. Shivaji Panikkar, the Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty, and barring his entry to the Fine Arts campus.

We wish to express our complete outrage at the actions of the Vice Chancellor and administration of the University. We would like to suggest that if the highest officials of the M.S. University administration are so out of sympathy with basic ideas, accepted the world over, of how a university should function, then they should relinquish any administrative functions in an academic institution.

As you are aware, the Fine Arts Faculty of M.S. University has enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) the reputation of being Indias leading Fine Arts school, which has had well-known artists on its faculty and has been the nucleus for a vibrant and internationally renowned artists community. In order to remedy the situation and reassert the stature of the Fine Arts Faculty and the University as respectable centres of academic excellence that abide by generally accepted norms of functioning of a university, we demand that the following steps be urgently implemented:

1. Dismissal of the untenable and phony police case against the student, Mr. Chandra Mohan
2. Immediate revoking of the suspension order against Dr. Shivaji Panikkar, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts
3. Initiation of legal action against the intruders on the University campus, including the police who improperly arrested Mr. Chandra Mohan in complete violation of guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India
4. Apology by the Vice-Chancellor of M.S. University to the academic community of the University

We sincerely hope that even at this late stage you will take action to undo some of the damage that is being inflicted on a prestigious institution.

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Liliana SchneiderBy:
International PolicyIn:
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Governor, Gujarat State, India


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