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Sehr geehrte Prof. Dr. Wanka, In the first place, please do allow us to clarify and assert that this petition does NOT seek to accuse or even label German society, in general, or even the individual academic we are accusing of discrimination as guilty of "racism" 'per se' (in our categorical and clear opinion, formed through some years of living and working in different universities in this country, there is much less of that here than in MANY other places in the world). We are, though, deeply perturbed by what is, self-evidently, deliberate discriminatory profiling of male Indian students by a senior German scientist, Prof. Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger (Institute of Biochemistry, Leipzig University) AND her even more worrying claim that her perception about Indian male students being potential rapists and threats to her "many female students" is shared by "[m]any female professors in Germany", who are said to have "decided to no longer accept male Indian students" (www.quora.com/What-should-an-Indian-male-student-do-if-he-is-denied-an-internship-opportunity-on-the-basis-of-India-being-projected-as-an-unsafe-country-for-women)! Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger has, meanwhile, tendered a ham-handed apology, where she has made the apparently-false claim that she "never wrote the mail in this way, it has been put together from individual segments taken from different mails." (www.zv.uni-leipzig.de/service/presse/nachrichten.html?ifab_modus=detail&ifab_id=5955) Anyone with even a simple understanding of how screen-shots work will be able to realise that she DID, indeed, write these words in the two e-mails that have been made public by, presumably, a colleague of the student concerned. The University of Leipzig, apparently, feels that the strategy of putting the blame on the student for "not accept[ing] her reasoning and involv[ing] her in a discussion about the social conditions in Germany and India" is a good way to advertise itself as an equal-opportunities-employer. We know that Germany wants skilled professionals and scientists from India and German universities want more and more Indian students and researchers. Our feeling, as Indian and international academics who work in/on India-related projects/themes, is that BOTH the historically-strong and multifaceted Indo-German relationship, which begun with the unique, wide-ranging, profound and incomparably-rich contributions of German and German-speaking Indologists and Indophiles to modern India's understanding of its intellectual and material heritage, AND the present synergy between Europe's leading democracy and the world's largest democracy require a climate of honesty and openness. Our requests are: 1. If what Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger claims, in her e-mail, is true, the 'BMBF' should institute an enquiry about the exact nature of this "deci[sion] to no longer accept male Indian students", which is supposed to have been reached by, as she claims, "[m]any female professors in Germany". How are such decisions taken, if at all, and does this imply that there are cloak-and-dagger vigilante bodies of German academics manipulating gender-relations and balances within academia to suit certain interests and/or perceptions about ethnic minorities and foreign communities, based on media-coverage of certain unfortunate events in foreign countries? 2. If, again, what Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger claims, in her e-mail, is true, then, by ANY standards and WHATEVER be the reasons and/or motives, many German academics are guilty of what is, undeniably, discriminatory racial and gender-oriented profiling of Indians (this is NOT about women/men, ANY generalisation about a collectivity, based on isolated-- even if repeated-- incidents, perceived and/or actual, IS, exactly, racial profiling. Again, more reason for a federal enquiry to clear the air and dispel any misgivings about such manipulation; otherwise, this one incident will cause immense damage to the reputation of German academia amongst Indians. 3. If, on the other hand, Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger's claims are false and/or delusional, how does the University of Leipzig propose to sanction her for blatant, open, well-documented and unapologetic racial profiling and allusion to a supposed discriminatory consensus amongst her peers? Given that we, too are academics and understand the pressures and compulsions of the domain, we should like to suggest that she be, at least, asked/advised to resign from her membership of ALL administrative and consultative bodies within the University of Leipzig. Thanking you for your time and attention, we remain Yours sincerely, Concerned Indo-German Academics
We would like to record our deep appreciation of and laud H. E. Ambassador Herr Michael Steiner's prompt and clear letter (www.india.diplo.de/contentblob/4475784/Daten/5221636/Letter.pdf) to Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger, after this unfortunate incident was made public. We would, hereby, also like to clarify and assert that we, as Indians and/or friends of India, deplore and decry the deeply-disturbing recent spurt in rapes and other violent/aggressive crimes against women in India. We also understand and support Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger's declared disbelief "that the Indian society is not able to solve this problem for many years now" (www.quora.com/What-should-an-Indian-male-student-do-if-he-is-denied-an-internship-opportunity-on-the-basis-of-India-being-projected-as-an-unsafe-country-for-women); and, also, agree that these crimes "demonstrate the attitude of a society towards women". We categorically disagree with those Indians and others who react to outrageous comments like those made by Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger with the insensitive and brusque brandishing of India's rape-statistics and the contested fact of there being less rapes and other sexual crimes, proportionately speaking, in India than in many other countries. We acknowledge and feel both embarrassed and sad about the way a large number of Indian women are still treated in their homes and workplaces; there is NO way we can deny or hide that fact! Rape and sexual violence IS a serious issue in India: we need to remember that more offences are reported in the 'West' than in India, even today, so statistics may be misleading.
However, we would like to share our perception (and we would be happy to be proved wrong about this) that there seems to be an apparently-targeted campaign, in, largely, the 'western' media, which seems to be trying to brow-beat the Indian State and society by using the recent horrific incidents of rape and other sexual violence as a fodder for their cynical strategy of "showing India its place on the world-stage". This HAS to be fought and fought intelligently and with a great deal of sensitivity to women's rights and gender justice concerns; Indian feminists and women's rights activists, cutting across the political spectrum, are doing a great job: there is NO scope or justification for a return to the imperialist "white [wo]man's burden", which Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger seems to have taken up, in her admittedly-unbecoming paranoia! Our position, as we have tried to make crystal clear above and elsewhere, is that the horrific spurt in crimes against women in India, in the last few years, should not be exploited as a ploy to be used cynically by vested interests in global, especially 'western' media to drum up anti-India hysteria globally. That leads to unjust and ultimately counter-productive biases, as we see in the present most unfortunate incident; India already has robust and, when compared to MOST other countries, stringent legal and social provisions against rape... there are eminent and innumerable activists, both women and men, left- and right-wing, who are working tirelessly and WITH the support of the State, to raise awareness against gender inequality and sexual violence. Indians do NOT need moral policing from clueless and uninformed "telescopic philanthropists" ('cf.', the well-meaning but woefully-disorganised lady from Charles Dickens's novel 'Bleak House'). We find this affair a sad comment on the University of Leipzig's (REPEAT: let us not make this a Germany-vs.-India issue!) understanding of the gravity of 'ex cathedra' racial profiling: just a ham-handed apology, not even a reprimand from ANY statutory body, let alone demands for harsher action! We do hope that all concerned will work towards justice BOTH for the individual student concerned AND what is threatening to become a category of the "potentially rapist" Indian man; what is sad is that this is no longer a matter of jest...
Dear All, many sincere thanks for your kind and considerate support for the petition and, of course, your valuable signatures and comments. As things have turned out, we have an insufficient number of signatures and, therefore, it does not seem to make sense to follow the petition further. However, we feel that it was important to bring the issue of what was, most clearly, a case of discrimination based on "racial profiling" to the public domain and hope that a message was sent that there is a limit to what is acceptable. This is especially significant due to the unfortunate fact that the higher echelons of academia-- in Germany as in almost all other countries-- seem to consider themselves as being above public reproach and/or scrutiny. THANKS... further