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Thursday, April 24, 2014  

US group cautions Harvard on action against Swamy
WASHINGTON As the controversy over an article written by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy snowballed, a US civil liberties group cautioned Harvard University on taking action against its Summer School instructor.

Swamy, who earned his PhD from Harvard in 1965, penned an op-ed published on July 16 in Mumbai’s DNA newspaper that advocated denial of voting rights to non-Hindus with the goal of stemming terrorist attacks in India.

Following the publication of the article, several Harvard affiliates circulated a petition calling on the university to end its ties with Swamy. The petition has gathered 312 signatures  and in a statement, the dean of the Summer School said that the school “will give this matter a serious attention”.

But in a letter to university President Drew G. Faust, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire), a civil liberties group with a focus on academia, said the group is “concerned about the threat to freedom of expression” that may come about from that attention. “The threat of a disciplinary investigation of Swamy stands in sharp and unflattering contrast to this admirable and appropriate understanding of the importance of freedom of expression in the academic community,” Adam H. Kissel vice-president of programmes at Fire, wrote.

Harvard has not explicitly said that it is investigating Swamy or that it has considered such an investigation.

Kissel wrote that an investigation of Swamy’s article would go against Harvard’s commitment to free speech, as outlined in the ‘Free Speech Guidelines’ adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Students have every right to protest for or against ideas in article, as does Harvard, but Harvard may not investigate or punish the expression.”

In India, Maharashtra’s minorities commission called for the arrest of Swamy for his “extreme xenophobic right-wing thoughts”. State Minorities Commission Vice-Chairman Abraham Mathai wrote to Mumbai police chief, urging him to initiate criminal charges against Swamy.

Agencies
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