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We write this column in extension of President Amy Gutmann’s “clear call to engage globally,” and because we believe that the academic community at Penn should pay careful attention to developments in India in recent weeks. In particular, these developments concern physical attacks on students and faculty in major universities. These attacks are so severe that they demand that we express our concern and solidarity with our colleagues in India.
In response to a letter of protest written to them by a large group of Penn faculty and students, as well as concerned citizens, the organizers of the Wharton India Economic Forum withdrew their invitation to Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. The organizers “felt that the potential polarizing reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base, student body, and our supporters, might put Modi in a compromising position, which we would like to avoid at all costs … .” A storm of media coverage followed — every major TV network and national newspaper in India (and elsewhere) debated Modi’s being disinvited. Several of us were asked to comment and we have done so in a variety of fora.