National

Open letter from historians on ‘rising intolerance’

Open letter to the President, the Prime Minister and central government, the Governors and Ministers of different state governments, and the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts of India:

from historians and social scientists of India at academic institutions overseas;

dated November 8, 2015 .

On October 26, a group of distinguished Indian historians issued a statement of concern about the damage being done in the current political climate to the traditions of tolerance, and freedom of speech, belief and practices, for which India was long applauded. We – historians and social scientists engaged in researching and teaching about the richness of Indian history and society in different locations overseas – write to express our solidarity with their statement. We share the deep concern over recent happenings in India, which are affecting freedom of artistic expression and historical and social science inquiry, and serving to produce a dangerously pervasive atmosphere of narrowness, intolerance and bigotry.

Currently reigning political attitudes and actions have seriously harmed the tradition of critical inquiry into the condition of India’s past and present that undergirded the country’s reputation of tolerance and democracy. Irresponsible statements by political leaders, declaring that India is finally free from eight hundred or one thousand years of slavery, and that the glory of the Hindu nation will shine anew, are creating a sense of fear among millions of citizens now being defined as outsiders. What the present regime seems to be promoting, as our colleagues in India note, is a legislated account of the past, glorifying a homogenized and inflexible “Hindu” tradition. This denies the very inheritance that made the tradition exceptional: ongoing debate, a remarkable range of accepted beliefs and practices, and the necessity of change over time. Such a monolithic and flattened view of India’s history is not supported by the sources, or by any serious historical inquiry.

It is a sad commentary on proclaimed traditions of tolerance and democracy that a family or individual can be lynched or burnt alive for an alleged social transgression (whether this be the eating of particular kinds of meat, or the forging of social relations across certain caste barriers) – without any formal charges being brought, let alone a trial being held in court. And that well-known and respected scholars can be killed for their intellectual opinions, research and writing because these do not fit with a particular political group’s view of the “real” history or condition of India.

What makes the situation worse is that the Prime Minister and leaders of government have not felt it necessary to speak out promptly and strongly against these acts of criminal violence. With our colleagues in India, we urge the President, Prime Minister and central government, the Governors and Ministers of different state governments, and the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts, to uphold the law and the constitution, allowing free and fearless expression of views, ensuring security for all sections of society, and safeguarding the values and traditions of plurality that India has long cherished.

signed:



Aiyar, Sana

MIT, Boston, MA (USA)

Ajantha Subramanian

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Alexander, Meena

City University of New York

Anand, Dibyesh

University of Westminster, UK

Appadurai, Arjun

New York University

Arondekar, Anjali

University of California, Santa Cruz

Baba, Norihisa

University of Tokyo, Japan

Bajpai, Rochana

School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Baker, J. Mark

Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Basu, Amrita

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Basu, Anustup

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Basu, Manisha

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Basu, Subho

Mcgill University, Canada

Bate, Bernard

Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Berger, Rachel

Concordia University, Canada

Bhabha, Homi

Harvard University, Cambridge MA

Bhatia, Varuni

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Bhattacharyya, Debjani

Drexel University, Philadelphia

Bilgrami, Akeel

Columbia University, New York

Bose, Neilesh

University of Victoria, Canada

Bove, Paul A.

University of Pittsburgh, PA

Busch, Allison

Columbia University, New York

Chakravarti, Ananya

Georgetown University, Washington DC

Chakravartti, Paula

New York University

Chandra, Shefali

Washington University in St. Louis

Chandra, Sudhir

Nantes Institute for Advanced Study, France

Charusheela, S.

University of Washington, Bothell, WA

Chatterjee, Partha

Columbia University, New York

Chatterji, Joya

University of Cambridge, UK

Chattopadhyay, Swati

University of California, Santa Barbara

Chopra, Rohit

Santa Clara University, CA

Cohen, Lawrence

University of California, Berkeley

Cole, Juan

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Datla, Kavita Saraswathi

Mount Holyoke College, MA

Daruvala, Susan

University of Cambridge, UK

Das Gupta, Monisha

University of Hawaii, Honolulu

Das, Shinjini

University of Cambridge, UK

Datta, Antara

Royal Holloway College, London

De, Rohit

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Denault, Leigh

University of Cambridge, UK

Doniger, Wendy

University of Chicago, IL

Duara, Prasenjit

National University of Singapore

Dudney, Arthur

University of Cambridge, UK

Fernandes, Leela

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Fuller, Chris

London School of Economics, UK

Furui, Ryosuke

University of Tokyo, Japan

Gandhi, Leela

Brown University, Providence RI

Ganguly, Debjani

Australian National University, Canberra

Ganti, Tejaswini

New York University

Ghose, Toorjo

University of Pennyslvania, Philadelphia

Ghosh, Bishnupriya

University of California, Santa Barbara

Ghosh, Durba

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Gill, Navyug

Hobart and William Smith Colleges, NY

Gold, Ann Grodzins

Syracuse University, NY

Goswami, Manu

New York University

Gottschalk, Peter

Wesleyan University, Connecticut

Govindrajan, Radhika

University of Washington, Seattle

Greenough, Paul R

University of Iowa

Grewal, Inderpal

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Grey, Daniel

Plymouth University, UK

Guha, Sudeshna

University of Cambridge, UK

Gupta, Radhika

Goettingen University, Germany

Guyot-Rechard, Berenice

University of Cambridge, UK

Haider, Navina

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hancock, Mary

University of California, Santa Barbara

Hardiman, David

University of Warwick, UK

Hyder, Syed Akbar

University of Texas at Austin

Ibrahim, Amrita

Georgetown University, Washington DC

Inoue, Aeka

Shujitsu University, Okayama, Japan

Jeffrey, Patricia

University of Edinburgh, UK

Jeffrey, Roger

University of Edinburgh, UK

Jenkins, Laura

University of Cincinnatti, OH

Jones, Arun

Emory University, Atlanta

Joshi, Sanjay

Northern Arizona University, AZ

Juneja, Monica

University of Heidelberg, Germany

Kahrs, Eivind

University of Cambridge, UK

Kaicker, Abhishek

University of California, Berkeley

Kaul, Suvir

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Keshavmurthy, Prashant

Mcgill University, Canada

Khan, Yasmin

University of Oxford, UK

Kia, Mana

Columbia University, NY

Kimura, Makiko

Tsuda College, Tokyo, Japan

Krishna, Sankaran

University of Hawaii, Honolulu

Lal, Ruby

Emory University, Atlanta

Lal, Vinay

University of California, Los Angeles

Lelyveld, David

William Paterson University, NJ

Lerche, Jens

School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Loomba, Ania

University of Pennyslvania, Philadelphia

Lukose, Ritty

New York University

Mahadev, Neena

Max Planck Institute, Berlin, Germany

Maira, Sunaina

University of California, Davis

Mannathukkaren, Nissim

Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada

Mankekar, Purnima

University of California, Los Angeles

Mantena, Rama

University of Illinois, Chicago

Mathew, Johan

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Matzner, Deborah

Wellesley College, Massachusetts

Mehta, Monika

Binghampton University, NY

Mehta, Uday

City University of New York

Menon, Dilip

Univ of Witwatersrand, Johannesberg, South Africa

Menon, Minakshi

Max Planck Institute, Berlin

Metcalf, Barbara

University of California, Davis

Metcalf, Thomas

University of California, Berkeley

Mir, Raza

William Paterson University, NJ

Mistree, Dinsha

Stanford University, CA

Mitra, Durba

Fordham University, New York

Mohan, Sanal

Max Planck Institute, Gottingen

Mohanty, Satya

Cornell University, NY

Mukharji, Projit

University of Pennyslvania, Philadelphia

Murphy, Ann

University of British Columbia, Canada

Muzaffar, Alam

University of Chicago

Nair, Savita

Furman University, South Carolina

Nakazato, Nariaki

University of Tokyo, Japan

Narayana Rao, V

Emory University, Atlanta

Natrajan, Balmurli

William Paterson University, NJ

Newbigin, Eleanor

School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Pandey, Gyanendra

Emory University, Atlanta

Parthasarathi, Prasannan

Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Patel, Ian Sanjay

Goldsmiths College, University of London

Pernau, Margrit

Max Planck Institute, Berlin

Peterson, Indira

Mount Holyoke College, MA

Pollock, Sheldon

Columbia University, New York

Prakash, Gyan

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Prashad, Vijay

Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

Purohit, Teena

Boston University, MA

Raheja, Gloria

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Rahman, M. Raisur

Wake Forest University, North Carolina

Raj, Kapil

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Ramnath, Maia

Penn State University, PA

Randeria, Shalini

Institute for International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

Rao, Anupama

Barnard College, New York

Rao, Rahul

School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Redding, Jeff

Saint Louis University School of Law, MO

Reddy, Sujani

SUNY, Old Westbury, NY

Rizvi, Sajjad

University of Exeter, UK

Robinson, Francis

Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Roy, Haimanti

University of Dayton, Ohio

Roy, Rohan Deb

University of Reading, UK

Roy, Srirupa

University of Goettingen, Germany

Ryosuke, Furui

University of Tokyo, Japan

Sahota, G.S.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Saikia, Yasmin

Arizona State University

Saith, Ashwani

IISS, The Hague, Netherlands

Sanjam, Ahluwalia

Northern Arizona University

Sarkar, Aditya

University of Warwick, UK

Sarkar, Bhaskar

University of California, Santa Barbara

Sato, Hiroshi

Japan Association of South Asian Studies, Tokyo

Sen, Dwaipayan

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Sen, Satadru

City University of New York

Sen, Uditi

Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Seth, Sanjay

Goldsmiths, University of London

Sevea, Iqbal

University of North Carolina, Chapel-Hill

Shah, Alpa

London School of Economics, UK

Shankar, Subramanian

University of Hawaii, Honolulu

Sharafi, Mitra

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Sharma, Aradhana

Wesleyan University, Connecticut

Sharma, Jyotirmaya

Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Sharma, Shalini

Keele University, UK

Sheikh, Samira

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Sheth, Falguni

Emory University, Atlanta

Shiga, Miwako

Senshu University, Kawasaki, Japan

Shingavi, Snehal

University of Texas at Austin

Shulman, David

Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel

Siegel, Benjamin

Boston University, Boston, MA

Singh, Amritjit

Ohio University, OH

Singh, Bhrigupati

Brown University, Providence, RI

Singh, Prerna

Brown University, Providence, RI

Sinha, Mishka

University of Cambridge, UK

Sinha, Mrinalini

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Skaria, Akay

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Stewart, Tony

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Subramanian, Ajantha

Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass

Subramaniam, Banu

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Swamy, Raja

University of Tenessee, Knoxville, TN

Taneja, Anand

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Tarlo, Emma

Goldsmiths College, University of London

Trivedi, Lisa

Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

Vaidhyanathan, Siva

University of Virginia

van der Veer, Peter

Max Planck Institute, Berlin

van Schendel, Willem

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vazira, Zamindar

Brown University, Providence RI

Veeraraghavan, Rajesh

Brown University, Providence RI

Virmani-Boutier, Arundhati

ÉHESS, Marseille, France

Visweswaran, Kamala

University of California, San Diego

Wald, Erica

Goldsmiths College, University of London

Washbrook, David

University of Cambridge, UK

White, David

University of California, Santa Barbara

Zecchini, Laetitia

CNRS, Paris, France

Zupanov, Ines G.

CNRS, Paris, France

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