'Persecuted for Muslim Identity': 500+ Academics Show Support For Jindal Teacher

"A Women’s Commission charging her with ‘harming the dignity of women’ is an utter travesty," reads the letter.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Jindal University professor Sameena Dalwai "is being persecuted for her Muslim identity and her political beliefs, by people who define India with narrow, ignorant lens," reads a letter by over 500 academics expressing solidarity for Dalwai as she faces FIR and trolling.

This comes nearly two months after she was attacked on X (formerly Twitter) for being "anti-Hindu" and violating students' privacy by showing their dating App profiles in the class, as The Quint reported in detail in November 2023.

The letter, signed by many noted personalities such as Nivedita Menon, historians Ramachandra Guha and Tanika Sarkar, professors Nandini Sundar and Niraja Jayal and lawyer Lawrence Liang and Geeta Seshu of Free Speech Collective. It also includes many faculty members of Jindal University too.

"We call upon the concerned authorities in the State of Haryana, including the Police and Judiciary, to put an end to this vicious witch hunt," reads the letter.

In their letter, the academicians talked about Dalwai's class on 23 September, from where it all began:

"This was a class activity for the topic ‘Desire, sexuality and gender’ within the subject ‘Gender and Society’ that Dalwai teaches to 3rd year law students. The dating app was used as an innovative teaching tool to practically appreciate how attraction and dating, just like marriage, follow the identity markers of caste, class, religion, skin colour, languages," it reads.

'Vicious Political Propaganda'

This was also confirmed by students and Jindal alumni that Sameena's teaching in the class was a common academic exercise as part of the society and gender course. However, (HSCW) Haryana State Commission for Women's chairperson Renu Bhatia had told The Quint then that students told her no such exercise was part of the curriculum.

The academics have also criticised HSCW for the deliberate targeting Dalwai:

"They visited the university, elicited student responses without university administration being present, then held a media spectacle in which Prof. Dalwai was declared guilty. Twitter posts became evidence, emotive language replaced logic, confidential university documents were posted on social media. The whole process showed utter disregard for legal procedures and a vicious political agenda."

Along with the videos shot from her class with misplaced context, students had also targeted her over an email she sent to students over a talk on Palestine.

The letter reads, "Dalwai was targeted as being ‘Hindu-phobic’ even though her email requested for tolerance of opposing ideological views within the safe space of universities."

"Without any enquiry or an opportunity to defend herself, Dr. Dalwai was served a show cause notice and thereafter a warning on twin charges of ‘harming the dignity of women’ and ‘discrimination of students on religious and ideological basis’. By succumbing to political pressure thus, Jindal university has set a damning precedent for future attacks on academic freedom," it further stated.

Sameena Dalwai, The Professor

Apart from the academics, alumni and current students have also collected testimonies in support of Dalwai which talk about how the professor always provided a safe space for the students to express their opinions without any fear, never had any prejudice against a student due to their religious or political beliefs and has utmost commitment to maintaining professional boundaries and ethics while taking classes.

One of the students who have been taught by her told The Quint, "These testimonies had been submitted to the administration too during the investigation against Dr. Dalwai. Over 100 signatures and around 40 testimonies have been collected."

However, an FIR under section 509 of the IPC has been filed against Dalwai on the charge of "intending to insult the modesty of women."

Safdar Hashmi Reading Circle, a student-led study group by Jindal students wrote, "The registration of the FIR represents an assault on academic culture, and an effort to control and censor university spaces which cultivate critical thought and inspire subversive action. This suppression of dissenting voices is not new and represents the continuous diminishing of spaces that challenge the prevalent regime."

The letter by hundreds of academics also noted that the show cause notice and FIR against her sets a "damning precedent" and that they are "dismayed that discussion of sexuality or politics are assumed to cause harm to dignity of women or discrimination to students."

Lastly, talking about Dalwai, who is a law professor, the letter stated that coming from a mixed family in terms of religion and languages, she has shown her commitment to social justice.

"She is a Bahujan feminist writer who defends the rights of women across caste, class and religions. As a public intellectual writing in English and Marathi, she consistently highlights the discrimination against labouring poor, Dalits and minorities. A Women’s Commission charging her with ‘harming the dignity of women’ is an utter travesty."

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