New York: Students from two eminent universities in New York demonstrated in support of students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, following the arrest of its student leader on charges of sedition, asserting that voicing dissent is a right and not a crime in a thriving democracy.
The students of New York University and Cooper Union conducted a sit-in on 27 February in solidarity with JNU students.
"In a thriving democracy, voicing dissent is a right and not a crime," the universities said in a message on their Facebook page of the event 'Stand with JNU'.
JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested last month by Delhi police on charges of sedition after "anti-India" slogans were allegedly raised at the university during a protest meeting in memory of Afzal Guru, hanged in 2013 after his conviction in the Parliament attack case.
A report in Washington Square News, NYU's independent student newspapers, quoted student Anjana Sreedhar as saying that one of the primary purposes of the event was to raise awareness about Kumar's arrest, especially among local students of South Asian descent.
"We are protesting against the fact that he was arrested under the sedition law which is very very antiquated and very outdated," Sreedhar said.
Anthropology professor Tejaswini Ganti said in the report that even if one disagrees with certain views of the government, the "reaction" is not to clampdown and arrest or resort to violence, which is what has been happening in India, but to actually be able to have an open exchange of ideas.
In a separate message posted online, community, student and legal activists in the US said they join to send strong messages of solidarity to all students, workers, communities and human rights defenders throughout India struggling against an "increasingly repressive right-wing nationalist and neoliberal regime."
"We salute Rohith Vemula, the Dalit scholar and poetic writer whose brave act ignited new and important waves of protest throughout India. We stand in solidarity with student leader Kanhaiya Kumar... We applaud every student, lawyer and journalist who have supported Kanhaiya in the face of attacks," the online post, endorsed by several organisations said.