AAS Statement on Academic Conditions in India

The Association for Asian Studies expresses its grave concern about a series of sustained challenges to academic freedom in India. Students and scholars throughout the country are at risk, and conditions for academic inquiry and collaboration are rapidly deteriorating.

In August 2019, the Government of India unilaterally repealed Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, as embodied in Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Since then, Kashmir—a Muslim-majority region—has suffered from the longest-ever internet blackout in a democracy. Without access to online services, Kashmiri scholars and students have been unable to submit theses, take exams, and conduct their day-to-day research. Many students and other civil society members continue to be held in preventive detention.

In December 2019, India’s parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which omits Muslim migrants from obtaining naturalized citizenship. This follows the state of Assam’s August 2019 implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which excludes nearly 2 million people as noncitizens.

Non-violent protests against the CAA and NRC began at university campuses and public spaces  across the country almost immediately, and led to what appears to be state-sanctioned violence against students at institutions from Dibrugarh University in Assam, to Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, to Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. Students and scholars who express dissent are clearly at serious risk of physical and psychological harm.

We join scholars from around the world in expressing our solidarity with the students and faculty of campuses in India facing such politically-motivated suppression. We urge the Indian government to recognize rights to free speech and access to education without fear of harassment and physical violence. We urge the Indian government to lift the communication blockade in Kashmir and initiate concerted measures to restore people’s rights to free speech and congregation.