After noted political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta's resignation as a professor from Ashoka University in Sonipat, faculty members, students and alumni have expressed anguish, saying his exit seems to be a direct consequence of his role as a public intellectual and critic of the government.
The developments came on a day when eminent economist Arvind Subramanian also resigned as a professor of the university.
Reacting to the resignation of Arvind Subramanian Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attacked the ruling BJP on Thursday and accused the saffron party of aiming to put knowledge in fetters.
"They go to Bengal and say that they will make 'Sonar Bangla' but are attacking Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's original spirit. Gurudev Tagore had said, 'Where the mind is without fear...where knowledge is free.' The BJP's aim is to tie knowledge in fetters, to instill fear in the minds of people," the Congress general secretary said in a tweet in Hindi.
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Two days after political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned as a professor from the Ashoka University, Subramanian put in his papers on Thursday and the faculty members wrote to the vice chancellor expressing deep anguish over the developments.
While the faculty members have written to the vice chancellor and board members, saying Mehta's exit has set a "chilling precedent for future removals of faculty", the alumni council of the university has released a separate statement expressing solidarity with Mehta, who stepped down as the VC two years ago and resigned as a professor earlier this week.
The faculty members have noted that Mehta's resignation is a "matter of great anguish".
A query sent to the university regarding the developments remained unanswered till the filing of the report.
"In light of media reports that circulated before the official announcement of Professor Mehta's departure from the university, it seems quite plausible that his resignation was a direct consequence of his role as a public intellectual and critic of the government. We are greatly troubled by this scenario," the statement by the faculty members said.
"Mehta's resignation is not just an occasion for sorrow over the departure of a deeply respected and admired colleague. It also raises urgent questions about the university's commitment to academic freedom as well as its internal processes. Even more troubling is the possibility that our university may have acceded to pressure to remove Professor Mehta or to request, and accept, his resignation," it added.
The faculty members said, "We request the university to ask Professor Mehta to rescind his resignation. We also request that the university clarify its internal protocols of faculty appointment and dismissal, and reinforce its institutional commitment to the principles of academic freedom."
The Ashoka University Student Government, Alumni Council and other members of the university community released a separate statement expressing solidarity with Mehta.
"The events that have transpired point to a failure on the chancellor and vice-chancellor's part in protecting the university faculty from external pressures and, more importantly, also point to a failure of the founders to ensure the same," the statement said.
Nearly 100 students and faculty members staged a protest in the university in the afternoon.
(With PTI inputs.)
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