On September 11, 2017, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, a prominent political scientist and Dalit rights activist reported receiving violent threats, in apparent retaliation for a book he had recently published.
Dr. Ilaiah is the director of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Moulana Azad National Urdu University, in Hyderabad. He is a prominent figure in the movement against the Indian caste system and has been criticized for position and writings characterized “anti-Hindu.”
Dr. Ilaiah has reported receiving threatening calls and messages, including threats to cut off his tongue, following the publication of his latest book, Samajika Smuggluru Komatollu, which posits and evaluates a correlation between India’s caste system and the distribution of land and power. On September 11, groups of protesters reportedly gathered to burn effigies of Dr. Ilaiah and demand his arrest. The threats to Dr. Ilaiah came just days after the death of Gauri Lankesh, a prominent writer and activist who was shot by unknown assailants.
As of this report, there is an ongoing police investigation into the threats.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted harassment of or threats against a scholar, apparently intended to limit or retaliate against the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such threats restrict academic freedom and democratic society generally. State authorities have an obligation to respond appropriately to such threats, including by investigating and taking appropriate security measures to ensure the safety of those threatened.