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We, scholars of South Asia in the United States, have been appalled at the extent of vituperation and the insults leveled against three distinguished scholars because they wrote a letter opposing the decision of the organizers of the Wharton India Economic Forum to invite Narendra Modi as a keynote speaker. Dissent is a vital part of democracy, and it is deeply alarming when anyone who voices dissent is baited, condemned and mocked by those who disagree (including with a level of 1950s U.S.-style red-baiting we have not seen in a very long time).

The Wharton India Economic Forum invited Modi to address the Forum. Many people (not just the three professors at the University of Pennsylvania) thought it a very bad idea and wrote a letter urging the organizers to reconsider. This is not the first time that students and faculty have protested the invitation of speakers at a university, nor will it be the last. Universities exist to encourage exchange and dissent. The Wharton School’s administration, or the organizers of the forum, made the decision to withdraw the invitation to Modi after weighing multiple sides of the debate. The three professors did not rescind the invitation, yet they have become the focus of some extraordinary attacks. We ask that The Daily Pennsylvanian moderate comments so as to discourage this descent into name-calling and actively foster a more civil discourse in its columns.

Anjali Arondekar, Frederick Asher, Sukanya Banerjee, Timothy Brennan, Antoinette Burton, Utathya C., Shefali Chandra, Ananya Chatterjea, Piya Chatterjee, Chris Chekuri, Jigna Desai, Keya Ganguly, Vinay Gidwani, Inderpal Grewal, Aishwary Kumar, Brendan LaRocque, Deepti Misri, Geeta Patel, Anupama Rao, Raka Ray, Simona Sawhney, Parna Sengupta, Meera Sehgal, Shana Sippy, Ajay Skaria, Zohreh Sullivan, Saadia Toor

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