Campus should not allow Rahul Gandhi to speak

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Hannah Cooper/Senior Staff

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On Sept. 11, Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Indian National Congress Party, is scheduled to speak at an event called “India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward” sponsored by the Berkeley Research on Contemporary India Program at the Institute of International Studies and the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley.

Gandhi has, in the past, noted that some members of the party may have been involved in what are now known as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. As they were carried out with impunity, they may better be recognized as the 1984 Sikh massacre. These pogroms on the lives, homes, businesses, properties and places of worship of Sikhs in India were carried out in an organized and meticulous manner resulting in the death of over 8,000 Sikhs — many of them burnt alive —  the systematic rape of Sikh women, the burning of scores of Sikh Gurdwaras and the displacement of at least 50,000 Sikhs. The United Nations has yet to classify the ethnic violence against Sikhs in India as a genocide, but several cities in California, including Kerman and Stockton, have done so.

For the witnesses of the massacre and family members of victims who have found solace in the state of California, Gandhi’s speaking engagement at UC Berkeley will be a tormenting experience, reversing the healing process of those attempting to overcome the haunting memories of the systematic violence allegedly organized and overlooked by the leaders of the Indian National Congress Party.

We of Sikhs for Justice believe that Gandhi, as vice president of the Indian National Congress Party — and thus, a representative of a party with members possibly complicit in the 1984 Sikh massacre — has no place in an institution of learning. He has no authority to lecture students and academia about the future of human society. His appearance will set a precedent of condoning speakers who overlook human rights violations.

Sikhs For Justice, a human rights nongovernmental organization working on the issue of the 1984 pogroms against Sikhs, has written to Chancellor Carol Christ and the directors of the Berkeley Research on Contemporary India Program and the Institute for South Asia Studies to urge them to withdraw their speaking invitation to Gandhi. The victims of the 1984 Sikh massacre will hold a rally outside of International House’s Chevron Auditorium on Sept. 11 from 5-9 p.m. to oppose Gandhi’s presence at UC Berkeley.

Gurpatwant Pannun is an attorney at law and a legal advisor for Sikhs for Justice.

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  • vinayak

    RAGA is born politician( really??). He earned his position in party after many years working for Indian people( really??). The truth is he has been directly put on vice-president seat ignoring the worthy in party. Now those who has put him there are literally putting words in his mouth to see him progress. He is baby for entire Congress(I) who consider that nursing him is there first duty for country(really??)..

  • SecludedCompoundTTYS

    Just let people speak and don’t go if you don’t want to. This is the USA and a public university. STOP IT!

    • DH reader

      Hope people enjoyed his comedy show.

  • EPA-Gurdian

    Get over your grudge…..Mr. GURPATWANT PANNUN.

  • Arvind Singh

    Rahul Gandhi symbolizes oppression and genocide of Sikhs in India. His refusal to condemn the genocide in a live interview with Arnab Goswamy of TimeNow is clear proof of his sectarian mindset. During last election, he even tried to recall the ghost of Indira Gandhi by making statements like, “I was very angry when Sikh bodyguard shot my grandmother”. It is the same anger that motivated his father Rajiv Gandhi to unleash violent Congress goons on innocent Sikh citizens of Delhi in 1984. UC Berkeley has been an icon for freedom and justice for decades. How can UC Berkeley allow a proponent of Sikh Genocide to speak at their campus? SHAME … SHAME … SHAME

  • TIHS

    who wrote the article may be paid salve of fascist party bjp

  • TIHS

    An hitler ideologist feku PM banned by usa because of genocide in gujarat 2002

  • Man with Axe

    By the logic of this argument Democrats should not be allowed to speak at Berkeley, because it was Democrats who tried to secede from the United States in order to maintain slavery of blacks, and then, wherever these same Democrats held power, they imposed a system of Jim Crow, and these same Democrats interred more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into camps during WWII and then dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, and these same Democrats got us involved in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

    By this standard this Ghandi fellow is a flower-child.

  • Free speech is not unlimited, advocating violence against people is not protected by the First Amendment, this is not just me saying this, it is a Supreme Court precedent. Incitement to violence is not protected under free speech, it is illegal and the laws against it have all been upheld as constitutional.

    However, the Congress Party is the main center-left party in India, the world’s largest democracy, a country with a billion people, and it is also socially liberal and secular. The main right-of-center party in India is the Bhahartiya Janata Party or BJP, which is actually rather far-right and Hindu nationalist and has been behind much bigger violent pogroms against religious minorities in India. Religious violence is a major problem in India but out of the two major parties, the Congress Party is not as bad an offender as the BJP. Still, that is no excuse for the fact that they have killed thousands of people just because they were members of a religion other than Hinduism, I am just giving context that the main party they are up against is actually even worse in this regard.

    Rahul Gandhi, though, was just a young teenager with no involvement in politics when this violence occurred in 1984. He only got involved in politics 2 decades later in 2004, and all his statements regarding this violence have denounced it. If you are trying to argue that he is complicit in this violence because he happens to belong to the same political party as the people who carried it out, when India only has 2 major political parties that operate nationwide and has over a billion people, that is not a very convincing argument to me. Rahul Gandhi never killed any Sikhs or advocated killing them, he denounced all of that killing and said it was wrong. Also his party, the Congress Party, has an ideology of being socially liberal and secular and being AGAINST religious nationalism, so it is not as if his party advocates this sort of violence. The BJP, on the other hand, as Hindu nationalists, ARE religious nationalists hostile to non-Hindus by definition, and were caught red-handed in similar pogroms against Muslims in India. So given all of this context, I think refusing to let Rahul Gandhi speak is going a little bit overboard. I could understand refusing to let someone who was a defender and advocate of violent attacks on religious minorities speak, you know, someone who actually advocated killing Sikhs or Muslims or Buddhists or Jains in India, but Rahul Gandhi has not done that, and this is just guilt by association, in this case, association with a political party that, at least currently in its ideology, is OPPOSED to sectarian violence and in favor of secular government that is NOT religiously biased for or against any religion. Maybe the Congress Party’s ideology was a bit less committed to secularism in 1984 and it may have had Hindu nationalists in it back then, but it is not 1984 anymore, and currently the BJP is the party associated with the Hindu nationalist cause.

    • Arvind Singh

      A lot of words trying to justify the Sikh Genocide and his family’s involvement in it. Why did Rahul Gandhi not condemn the Sikh Genocide in live interview with Arnab Goswamy of TimesNow? Arnab asked him repeatedly and gave him ample opportunity to come out clean on the topic, but Rahul Gandhi refused. This clearly shows his sectarian mindset and hate for Sikhs … same hate that resulted in genocide of thousands of citizens on the streets of Delhi and congress ruled states.

    • Rollie

      Yes, but the charge of incitement must be explicit, and be proven by due process, to justify prohibition or punishment of its expression. Otherwise, it is a mere accusation—an opinion—and not legally actionable.

      Seemingly every controversial speaker invited to Berkeley these days, gets accused of advocating/inciting violence, prompting calls for dis-invitations on this basis. But honestly, I’ve yet to hear any such accusations that are explicit, and that would be provable in a legal process.

    • DH reader

      They are neither liberal nor secular. They are just corrupt to the core and they woe Muslims for votes and encourage mass conversions by Christian Missionaries. They do not treat everyone as equals, they just give special treatment to Muslims. They have protected neither Hindus’ rights in Kashmir nor Sikhs’ rights in Punjab and everywhere else. It is not true that BJP has been caught red-handed in any progroms.

  • Josh

    I don’t know much about Gandhi’s involvement with the Sikh massacre, but I doubt there will be an invitation withdrawal, especially with Berkeley advocating for Free Speech Year.