New York, April 21, 2018: Students and faculty from schools across Columbia University were joined by members of the South Asian diaspora from across New Yor City to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister of India condemning the recent cases of sexual violence and political inaction by the ruling dispensation this Friday in the Columbia University campus in New York City. Over 120 students, representing several schools of Columbia University, carried out a candlelight vigil under the banner ‘SILENCE NO MORE’ to express solidarity with the victims and demanded immediate action against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity.
The event was supported by the Indian Students at Columbia (ISAC), a student body comprising of students from India who are currently studying across engineering, public policy, management, law and several other disciplines across Columbia University. Several other schools like the Columbia Journalism School, Law School, Business School, Teachers College, Columbia College and School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) were represented by students and faculty present.
The group marched from the iconic Earl Hall to the Butler Library where they expressed their protest through theater, dance and music which was followed by remarks by students, faculty members like Prof Shayonee Mitra and Prof Gauri Viswanathan and scholars and activists from other universities Ruchira Gupta, Biju Matthew and Sujatha Gidla, among others.
The students then released a letter to the Prime Minister demanding swift action against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. The petition was also signed by students from other Universities in New York and is currently being circulated across campuses in the United States to gather more signatures, although the written document is being released now. The students demanded that the Prime Minister put to action his promises made on several forums to end violence against women and ensure stringent action against and strict condemnation of his own party members in perpetrating crimes against women.
Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India Against Sexual Violence in the Country
Date: 20th April 2018
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
7, Lok Kalyan Marg
New Delhi – 110011
Sub: Open Letter on rising gender-based violence in India
Hon’ble Prime Minister,
We are students and alumni of Columbia University in the City of New York, writing to express our anguish, outrage, and shock over the recent cases of barbaric sexual violence reported across India and the political patronage given by members of your party to these crimes. We express our solidarity with compatriots across the world who have protested the heinous acts of gender-based violence in the country.
India has an abysmal track record in ensuring the safety of its women. It is indeed worrying that we seem to have made no progress in this regard since 2012 when yours was a prominent voice in the opposition. Kathua, Unnao, and other crimes that have followed are the most recent incidents within a larger pattern of abuse. They are also symptomatic of deeper structural violence directed against vulnerable sections of our society by those elected to uphold the tenets of the Indian constitution and mandated to preserve the health of the body politic. We are outraged and perturbed by the collective loss of humanity that we are witnessing in India. These events have shaken the conscience of not only the Indian diaspora, but the wider international community.
The various diversionary statements and rationales issued by members of your party in support of the perpetrators of these crimes are shameful and have exacerbated the situation further. As the Prime Minister, your silence was palpable. We received the same hollow assurances from your office, which came too late and did little to address the pervasive rape culture in our country. Your passivity emboldens those who use religion and sexual violence as political tools against vulnerable communities. The case of Kathua is emblematic of how fissures in Indian society are being leveraged by elements that use hate as a tool to silence minorities.
We write this letter to register our strong dissent and anguish over these attacks on citizens of India and on humanity writ large. We seek accountability and fast-tracked justice in the Kathua and Unnao rapes.
The perpetrators of these assaults on humanity must be brought to book, expeditious independent investigations must be undertaken, the victims and their families must receive immediate protection and the victims must see the light of justice, without any delay. We demand a strong, unequivocal reassurance from you, as Prime Minister in this regard.
By over 150 Students, Faculty members and Alumni of Columbia University in the City of New York
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