Skip to main content

US' 125 academics protest Modi vist to Silicon Valley, say Digital India "ignores" concerns on personal information

Wendy Doniger
By Our Representative
As many as 125 academics from across the Unites States, associated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), have come down heavily on what they call “uncritical fanfare being generated over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to promote Digital India on September 27, 2015.”
Among those who have signed the statement include Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago, who shot into prominence after her book, “The Hindus” was withdrawn from circulation in India by the Penguins following a saffron objection, and Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, who in March 2013 organized a campaign to stop Modi's address to Wharton India Economic Forum.
Other important US-based academics who have signed the statement include Anjali Arondekar, Arjun Appadurai, Sarada Balagopalan, Radhika Balakrishnan and Srimati Basu.
Modi will be in US from September 23 to 28, and after attending the United Nations in New York, where he will meet President Barrack Obama, he proposes to go to Silicon Valley to address Indian Americans, and also speak at Stanford University.
In their open statement, titled, “Faculty statement on Narendra Modi visit to Silicon Valley”, published on the AAUP blog site, the academics say, “Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley highlights the role of a country that has contributed much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, and builds on this legacy in extending American business collaboration and partnerships with India.”
Ania Loomba
AAUP blog is a production of Academe magazine, which focuses on issues in higher education, opinions published in them “do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP”, the website where the statement has been published says.
The statement says, “Indian entrepreneurial success also brings with it key responsibilities and obligations with regard to the forms of e-governance envisioned by Digital India.”
The statement reads, “We are concerned that the project’s potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse.”
It says, “As it stands, Digital India seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally- protected rights of citizens. These issues are being discussed energetically in public in India and abroad.”
The statement further says, “Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the Government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures.” The statement comes amidst fear that Digital India is aimed at intruding into the personal information of non-resident Indians (NRIs).
Even as “acknowledging” that as Modi, as Prime Minister of a country that has “contributed” much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, and has “the right to visit the US, and to seek American business collaboration and partnerships with India”, the statement reminds the organizers the reasons behind Modi being denied visa before he become Prime Minister.
The statement says, “As educators who pay particular attention to history, we remind Modi’s audiences of the powerful reasons for him being denied the right to enter the US from 2005-2014, for there is still an active case in Indian courts that questions his role in the Gujarat violence of 2002 when 1,000 died.”
The statement further says, “Modi’s first year in office as the Prime Minister of India includes well publicized episodes of censorship and harassment of those critical of his policies, bans and restrictions on NGOs leading to a constriction of the space of civic engagement, ongoing violations of religious freedom, and a steady impingement on the independence of the judiciary.”
“Under Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, academic freedom is also at risk”, the statement says, adding, “Foreign scholars have been denied entry to India to attend international conferences, there has been interference with the governance of top Indian universities and academic institutions.”
The statement provides the example, in this context, of “the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Nalanda University; as well as underqualified or incompetent key appointments made to the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the National Book Trust.
“A proposed bill to bring the Indian Institutes of Management under direct control of government is also worrisome. These alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country”, the statement says.
“We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions”, it concludes.

Comments

TRENDING

US research: 40% of India's casteist Facebook posts are anti-reservation, anti-Dalit

By Rajiv Shah
A recent American civil society research has found that 40% of India's casteist posts on Facebook (FB) have anti-reservation slant. Asserting that the reservation policy in India is similar to affirmative action in the United States, the research study, titled "Facebook India: Towards The Tipping Point of Violence Caste and Religious Hate Speech", says, this type of hate content on FB is mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis.

Sanjiv Bhatt paying price for deposing on Modi role in Gujarat riots: Wife Shweta

Counterview Desk
Following the Jamnagar sessions court ordering life imprisonment to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for his alleged involvement in three decades old custodial death case, his wife Shweta Bhatt has said that he has been sentenced for a “for a crime he did not commit”, even as criticizing the Indian Police Service (IPS) Association, Gujarat, for not standing up for him.

Senior advocates targeted because they took up cases against Amit Shah: Lawyers' NGO

Counterview Desk
The Lawyers Collective (LC), an NGO claiming to promote human rights issues, has expressed surprise at the latest move by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR against the Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and unknown office bearers for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

How Gujarat govt imposed curbs on livestock export for 'fear' of losing BJP vote share

By RK Misra*
Insidious are the ways authorities function, preaching one thing, practicing quite another. Administrative muscle-flexing to suit political goals was on display when the BJP-led Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat banned the export of livestock days ahead of Eid. Even the Narendra Modi-led government expressed its intent to confirm it countrywide, but stopped short of doing so.

One of the least peaceful countries, India's global peace ranking deteriorates: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report has asserted that India's ranking in the Global Peace Index (GPI) is 141st among 163 countries, deteriorating by four ranks in a year. Ranking 163 countries by providing a score to each, the report, prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), headquartered in Sydney, Australia, has found India to be one of the least peaceful nations in the region.

Demand for Bharat Ratna to Dalai Lama as top RSS leader warns China of 'strong' action

Nava Thakuria*
Dharamshala: Indian supporters for a free Tibet have urged the Government of India to confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, for his “immense contributions” in creating goodwill for India in the last six decades. A declaration, adopted at the 6th All-India Tibet Support Groups’ Conference held on June 15 and 16 in Dharamshala township of Himachal Pradesh, said that the Nobel laureate continues to be a holy ambassador of Indian culture enriched with non-violence, compassion and religious harmony.

Sabarmati 'cleaned up' swimming pool style: Untreated effluents discharged in river

Counterview Desk
In a fresh letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, senior Gujarat environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have taken strong objection to the recent clean-up drive of the about 11.3 km stretch of Sabarmati riverbed undertaken by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), terming it as “swimming pool type clean-up.” The river’s total length is 371 km.

Jharkhand mob lynching: Adivasis protest police 'inaction', FIR against victims

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM), a civil rights network, on Monday sponsored a protest against the police action against the Adivasi victims of the lynching which took on April 10, 2019, in Jurmu village of Dumri block in Gumla district of Jharkhand. The incident led the death of Prakash Lakda, aged 50.

Gujarat govt 'considers' temples, charitable institutions as shops and establishment

By Pankti Jog*
The Gujarat state assembly recently passed a new law which would "govern" the working condition of shops and establishments. One of the most talked about provisions of the Act is, it allow shops and establishments across Gujarat to function 24 hours.

There is no 'separate' Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Palestine

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros.