Stop the termination of Chatterji and Shapiro at CIIS

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Jessica Hsu | jesseshoe@gmail.com | 415.200.7862
Eva Goodwin | edwgoodwin@gmail.com | 415.846.5123          The Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen | msorgen@sorgen.net | 415.956.1360

Graduate Students Pursue Legal Action Against California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS)

Following months of unsuccessful negotiations with school administrators to safeguard their education

(San Francisco, October 25, 2011)– Thirty-eight students out of department of fifty have retained the Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen to pursue legal action against the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) following the suspension of two core faculty of the Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) Department, Chair Richard Shapiro and Professor Angana Chatterji. These students believe the investigation into Chatterji and Shapiro has been in violation of institutional due process and protocols and are raising questions regarding the authority and ethics of particular administrators. The matter is currently before a Faculty Hearing Board, which is slated to convene later this week.

“Our initial analysis leads us to believe there to be serious violations of student rights,” states Sorgen, who has sent multiple letters to the Institute requesting a meeting with CIIS counsel and Administration since August 3, but this meeting has yet to materialize. The Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen litigates matters pertaining to civil rights and education at federal and state levels, and one of their specializations is student rights.

The proceedings at CIIS have thrown Anthropology students’ lives and education into uncertainty, resulting in detrimental impacts on their physical and emotional well-being. Many have disenrolled and all have struggled to piece together their lives with the disruption and damage to academic studies and community-based advocacy work; some are scrambling for livelihoods without financial aid, while international students had to choose between paying for unwanted classes and losing their student visas. The situation has been exacerbated by what they strongly feel has been mistreatment by CIIS and the circulation of lies by Administration to justify the recent actions taken against core Anthropology faculty and a majority of students. Many students believe administrative actions have been inconsistent in dealing with student complaints. In late April 2011, a grievance was filed against a part-time faculty by 36 students, and students have received no formal report regarding their complaint to date; they suspect the investigation into the part-time faculty was used as a façade to extract information from students to build a case for what they understand as a “witch hunt” leading to the suspension of the two professors.

Unnamed students who participated in the  investigation have stated it is not their intent to ‘bring down’ the department, but have struggled to have their concerns and issues heard preceding the investigation. Other students demanding the reinstatement of faculty are concerned  that  the Administration is using student concerns as fuel to dismantle the department. The Student Handbook outlines a formal grievance procedure, and many students demanding  Chatterji and Shapiro’s reinstatement  do not understand why it has been bypassed, nor why the two faculty have been banned from teaching and advising during these proceedings. Moreover, many communications by the Academic Vice President (AVP) and Dean of Students (DoS) appear to be contradictory around the suspension and the investigation.

Many students  are disturbed that the proceedings seem in opposition to all institutional and faculty-led review mechanisms, which indicate high student satisfaction rates and a well-functioning department, including the promotion Chatterji received in 2009 (with outstanding commendations) and the renewal of Shapiro’s contract on April 1, 2011. For more than three months, students have repeatedly requested accountability and clarifications from CIIS Administration around the proceedings toward safeguarding their education and well-being. They say that their complaints, questions, and requests for meetings, starting 6/28, did not result in a collective meeting with Administration until 8/26. Students were disappointed that this meeting did not address their needs satisfactorily, and on September 8, 39 students signed a symbolic no-confidence motion against the DoS and the AVP, who also holds the titles of Interim Anthropology Department Chair, Dean of Faculty, Chief Academic Officer and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.

The Academic Vice President has recommended termination of Chatterji and Shapiro to the Hearing Board, and students now believe that their dismissal was the objective of particular administrators preceding May, when the AVP claims to have initiated the investigation.  A worker in higher administration has just placed on record a ten-page statement, which has been submitted to the Faculty Hearing Board.  The statement describes events that led to the worker’s understanding that the Dean of Students sought to instigate an investigation targeting Professors Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji and the Anthropology Department, beginning in March 2011, and that she requested and obtained permission from the AVP in April 2011 to do so.  Further, the statement details tactics of the ‘investigation’ that the worker witnessed and experienced, including the coercive solicitation of student complaints through promises of ‘protection’ and compensation for those willing to participate, and intimidation for those unwilling (to participate.) This statement is in contradiction to CIIS Administration’s October 14  ‘fact’ sheet which states: “It was not proactively initiated by the CIIS Administration.”

“We just learned about this employee statement indicating that Dean of Students initiated this investigation proactively in the Spring, confirming what students suspected. We are outraged and appalled to hear about the coercive solicitation of student complaints– how is this ‘research’ or ethical? The ways in which administrators continue to broadcast ‘facts’ in disregard of what has already been communicated to students is a gross betrayal of student trust in the administrative procedure and administration claims of good faith,” said Tanisha Payton, an SCA doctoral student.

Elizabeth J. Pimentel, an MA student, adds, “Chatterji and Shapiro were tried, judged and sentenced before they could ever respond to allegations made against them. Then they were told not to speak of it, and asked to be available for the remainder of the investigation, making Chatterji’s human rights work in Indian-administered Kashmir impossible. We are extremely concerned for communities and those struggling for justice in Kashmir.”

The latest actions by the Administration also include a publicly circulated ‘fact’ sheet dated 10/14 on the investigation of the Anthropology Department which students can refute point-by-point based on their interactions and documented exchanges with CIIS Administrators. Students perceive their mistreatment by CIIS as part of a trend in higher education toward the consolidation of autocratic administrative power and the dissipation of faculty and student rights. The Institute does not have a tenure system, nor does it have a faculty, student or staff union. Professor Shapiro has been at the Institute for 25 years, and Professor Chatterji has been there for 14 years. Both have been vocal advocates for collaborative governance and tenure.

The Department’s curriculum prioritizes social justice and advocacy research and is connected to community organizations and human rights activists around the world. “My work this summer was in support of refugee rights in Burma, and I had to cut my trip short because of the suspension of my advisor,” stated Jen Cordaro, another doctoral student in the Anthropology Department. “This targeting of our faculty has wide-reaching repercussions on marginalized communities around the world– these damages are immeasurable.”

On October 15, 40+ SCA students and supporters of Chatterji and Shapiro staged a rally at CIIS during a Board of Trustees meeting. The  rally had multiple demands, including: 1) the immediate reinstatement of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro to full faculty status, 2)  the immediate addressal of outstanding student grievances against the professors, but that such grievances be dealt with through the established institutional procedures, 3) the empowerment of CIIS senior faculty to constitute a body to investigate the role of the President, the AVP, and Dean of Students in the actions against the Anthropology faculty and their students and to determine appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of the named administrators.

On the day of the rally, MA student Safiya Bird-Whitten broke a 13-day fast she had undertaken in “protest of what feels like is the demonization of two professors who have helped [her] believe that [she] indeed [has] the capacity to be influential, who have challenged [her] more intellectually than [she has] ever been challenged before.”

Professors Chatterji and Shapiro have received an outpouring of support from academics, community organizations, and activist networks, including Asia Human Rights Commission, Jammu Kashmir Civil Society Coalition, and from organizations like the publishing group Verso who recently released the book called Kashmir: The Case for Freedom. Chatterji is a contributor alongside Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali.

Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro work with social justice issues and disenfranchised communities. Chatterji is internationally renowned for her work as co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK), and currently has sedition charges against her for her research into mass graves in the region. Shapiro, her life partner, was banned from Indian in November 2010 in connection with her work. Shapiro, also the Department Chair, is known for his anti-racist, anti-Islamphobic, and alliance building work.

For more information: www.injusticeatciis.net

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Unknown and Unmarked Graves of Kashmir

PRESS NOTE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Srinagar, August 29, 2011

INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ON
HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE IN INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR (IPTK)
http://www.kashmirprocess.org

together with the
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons

Re.: Response to SHRC’s Report on Unknown and Unmarked Graves of Kashmir

From:
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
Advocate Parvez Imroz, Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Gautam Navlakha, Convener IPTK and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly
Zahir-Ud-Din, Convener IPTK and Vice-President, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Advocate Mihir Desai, Legal Counsel IPTK and Lawyer, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India
Khurram Parvez, Liaison IPTK and Programme Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
and the Executive Council, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons

Queries may be directed to:
Khurram Parvez
E-mail: kparvez@kashmirprocess.org
Phone: +91.194.2482820
Mobile: +91.9419013553

We welcome the report of the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) on unmarked graves in north Indian-administered Kashmir (dated July 2011 and recently released), taking suo moto cognizance of the matter, and appreciate the courage and labour that this work signifies.

SHRC’s report acknowledges and corroborates the research documented in the report, BURIED EVIDENCE, released by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTK) in December 2009.

SHRC investigated unmarked graves in Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara, and Handwara districts across 38 graveyards and verified 2156 unidentified bodies in unidentified graves.

Based on investigative research conducted between November 2006-November 2009, BURIED EVIDENCE had documented 2700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves, containing 2943+ bodies, across 55 villages (in 62 sites within these villages) in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir. Of these, 2373 were unidentified and unnamed graves.
See http://www.kashmirprocess.org/reports/graves/toc.html

To respond to the egregious violations of the past and secure justice requires that we acknowledge atrocities that have been committed and address their effects. In the matter of unknown, unmarked, and unidentified graves in Kashmir, we call for a three-tier process: Investigation, Prosecution, and Reparation.

Investigation and Prosecution: We request that SHRC extend its investigation to include each site documented by IPTK in north Kashmir, and beyond, to all twenty districts in Jammu and Kashmir. In particular, we ask that investigations take place in Anantnag, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, and Srinagar districts in Kashmir province and in Doda, Poonch, Rajouri, and Reasi districts in Jammu province.

We ask that DNA-based profiles of those buried in the unmarked and unidentified graves be cross-tabulated with those that have been involuntarily disappeared in Kashmir. Further, in addition to the identification of the dead, we ask that comprehensive forensic examinations be conducted to determine the circumstances of death, including incidences of torture.

The Kashmir Police have stated that they have records of 464 unidentified graves. However, it appears that, even in these cases, the Kashmir Police have not maintained photographic, DNA, and other evidence. All unidentified graves that have been listed as holding the bodies of “foreign militants” must be investigated. The police have filed First Information Reports stating these persons as dead from encounter killings. However, these bodies have not been identified based on records or other verifiable evidence. Neither has conclusive evidence been offered to prove that the bodies are of Kashmir’s disappeared.

SHRC has stated that 574 bodies have been identified as locals following their burial. However, the Kashmir Police and Indian Armed Forces had previously claimed these 574 bodies as those of “foreign militants.” This indicts the government’s negligence in identifying unclaimed bodies. Based on the above, the SHRC report evidences that there is every possibility that the 2156 unmarked graves hold the bodies of persons that were involuntarily disappeared. The cases of the 574 bodies also intimate that numerous persons have been killed in fake encounters and secretly buried in unmarked graves to conceal their identity. IPTK’s 2009 report too had documented a list of 49 bodies, all designated by the state as “foreign militants,” 47 of whom, on investigation, proved to have been killed in fake encounters, and none were identified as foreign insurgents.

If, in the course of future investigations, it is proven that disappeared persons were killed in fake encounters and buried in unmarked graves, exemplary punishments should be pronounced against those accused to deter future and repeated crimes of the same nature. In instances where non-local persons are killed in alleged “encounter” killings, relevant international human rights and humanitarian law must be applied in matters of redress.

SHRC has relied on statements from persons who, fearful of reprisal, wish for their testimonies to be placed on record anonymously. Given the nature of the issue, and the heightened risks involved in offering testimony, utmost care and caution should be exercised in securing witness protection, following international protocols and standards.

We ask that the matter of unknown, unmarked, and mass graves be subjected to a rigorous, independent, and impartial investigation. We ask that the story of these graves be investigated in their entirety: What are the particular legal and institutional histories of the graveyards? How did they come into existence? Per whose order? Did District Magistrates requisition the construction of graveyards, burials, and record keeping? Such historiography would permit holding actionable particular officers and offices that acted in violation of the law, with arrogance and indifference, and failed to follow the law in burying unidentified bodies. This would disaggregate the amorphous state and enable holding accountable particular institutions of state.

Reparation: The issue of unknown and unmarked graves involves the living as much as the dead. Reparation must both be individualized and collectivized, so that communities, neighbourhoods, and villages can heal and break their isolation. SHRC’s either/or proposal of offering a relief of Rupees 700,000 to the next of kin or undertaking DNA testing-based investigation should be amended, and both the investigation and provision of relief be made mandatory. Monetary compensation to the next of kin should not be calculated as ex gratia relief, but should be particularized according to the individual circumstances of death, and the affect the death has had on the family, and relief should be calculated based on the complex task of quantifying loss of life and providing psychosocial and economic rehabilitation to family members.

We ask that all special laws and provisions of immunity that authorize the military and paramilitary forces to act with impunity in Kashmir be revoked unconditionally. We ask that the Government of India ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which it has been a signatory since February 2007, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which it has been a signatory since October 1997. We ask that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir institute a comprehensive ban on practises of torture as defined by international law and humanitarian ethics.

In Kashmir, between 1989-2011, the actions of the military and paramilitary have resulted in over 8,000 enforced disappearances and 70,000 deaths. We ask that human rights violations in Kashmir be recognized as resulting from, and concomitant to, the impunity of militarization and state violence, and the dangers militarism imposes on civil society. We caution that, without addressing these structural and prevalent conditions, justice and peace will remain elusive.

In calling for conflict resolution in South Asia’s nuclear zone, we recognize the precarious cross-border conditions between India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and condemn the violent actions of misogynist state and non-state groups operating in the region.

We gratefully acknowledge the collectives/organizations that have endorsed the above statement:
1.        Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Philippines.
2.        Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
3.        Families Of the Disappeared (FOD), Sri Lanka.
4.        KontraS (The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence), Indonesia.
5.        Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained Disappeared (FEDEFAM), Venezuela.
6.        Odhikar, Bangladesh.
7.        Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Andhra Pradesh.
8.        Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR), Punjab.
9.        Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), West Bengal.
10.        Bandi Mukti Morcha, West Bengal.
11.        Campaign for Peace & Democracy (CPDM), Manipur.
12.        Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai.
13.        Coordination for Human Rights (COHR), Manipur.
14.        Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh.
15.        Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Movement, Jammu and Kashmir.
16.        Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), Jammu and Kashmir.
17.        Lokshahi Hakk Sangathana (LHS), Maharashtra.
18.        Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam.
19.        Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights, Nagaland.
20.        Organization for the Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR), Andhra Pradesh.
21.        Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF), Karnataka.
22.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh.
23.        Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR), Haryana.
24.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jharkhand.
25.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Nagpur.
26.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan.
27.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Tamil Nadu.
28.        Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi.
29.        Valley Citizens’ Council, Jammu and Kashmir.

Sometimes it takes a journalist to remind you why you like literature …

There are parts of Basharat Peer‘s Curfewed Night which are sentimental, but it’s a very good account of life under Indian occupation in Kashmir.  A few sections got to me, and I repost them here in the hopes that others will take a look at the book:

When I came across an old copy of George Orwell‘s Homage to Catalonia, I developed an obsession with his merging of the personal and the political, the small details and the bid ideas, his sparse, powerful prose.  Homage to Catalonia brought back many memories of Kashmir and made me believe that writing similarly about my own war might be possible someday. I saw the walls of Kashmiri towns when I read Orwell’s writing about Barcelona during the 1936 uprising against the Fascists …

I saw similar windows of understanding opening up in the Red Cavalry stories of Isaac Babel.  And when I read Babel’s own disappearance and murder, I thought again of the arrests and custodial murders of thousands of young men in Kashmir.  In John Steinbeck‘s chronicle of displaced farmers, The Grapes of Wrath, I saw Indian military camps taking over orchards and paddy fields around my village in Kashmir.  A little later, the essays of James Baldwin reminded me of the ghettos of Indian Muslims and lower castes. (64)

One forgives him for only reading the left, because there are other heart-breaking moments in the book:

“Thirty seven words is all you need to know to be a reporter here [Kashmir].”  He laughed the weary laugh of a man who had witnessed a lot.  It was a grim list: fear, arrest, prison, torture, death, Indian security forces, separatists, guerrillas/militants/terrorists, grenades, assault rifles, sandbag bunkers, army installations, hideouts, crackdowns, search-and-destroy operations, frustration, tension, anxiety, trauma, democracy, betrayal, self-determination, freedom, peace talks, international community, mediation, breakdown, despair, and rage.