New Delhi: In yet another incident of Right wing groups gunning for teachers and academic institutions which they feel do not conform to their ideology, a college professor in Goa has become the latest target.
The VM Salgaocar College of Law in Panaji has reportedly asked Shilpa Singh, an assistant professor of political science, to explain her “method and material” of teaching, after members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, complained that she “promotes socially hateful thoughts about a particular religion, community and group of people”, according to a report by The Indian Express.
College teachers in Goa have come out in support of Singh, who is allegedly being threatened by ABVP, whose Konkan unit’s joint secretary Prabha Naik wrote the letter to the college administration, demanding that action be taken against the teacher. The letter also allegedly threatened that the organisation would be “forced to start a severe agitation against the institution” and contact the police if the administration fails to comply. Naik also wrote that the organisation has evidence of the professor teaching “anti-religious things”.
Responding to the complaint, Singh told Indian Express, “This is muzzling academic freedom. For me, doing humanities is to shoulder some social responsibilities, especially being a woman. If you curtail this freedom, it’s equivalent to me dying.” She added that ABVP members have verbally conveyed four topics which they find offensive. “I was informed that they had issues with my teachings of Manusmriti and were not comfortable bringing Rohith Vemula, (Hyderabad university student who allegedly died by suicide), M M Kalburgi and (Narendra) Dabholkar (rationalists and activists who were allegedly murdered by Right wing organisations) into my teachings. They also had issues with a response to a particular query on beef that I seem to have shared,” she added.
Prof M R K Prasad, one of the three members of a grievance committee which is set to hear Singh following the complaint against her, told Express: “This is a law college and we have to follow rules. The professor has been given a copy of the letter and we will wait for her response. We do not know what has been said, and the context and the background of each thread. We will have to hear both sides before we come to a conclusion. The grievance committee is for students of this college. This is a third party and we do not appreciate this manner of complaint. In the letter, they have not expressed what was anti-religion.”
According to Singh, trouble began when she started lectures explaining “perspective on power”. She used reading materials of D D Kosambi, Devi Prasad Chattopadhyay and other scholars to explain Manusmriti’s views on women in a specific context, as it “used superstitious idealism as a tool for social control to suppress women”. In the days around her lectures, Singh told the media, she started getting text messages from a select few on “her views on NRC and CAA”, which she said she avoided.
Meanhwile, political Science teachers from different colleges across the state have expressed their support for Singh. Professor Rahul Tripathi, HoD, Political Science, Goa University, told Express, “We came together to support the idea of a classroom. A classroom is a sacred space. What a Political Science teacher discusses in classroom is as per norms, which have evolved through so many procedures, in which many academics have contributed. A non-expert has no locus standi to what is discussed inside a classroom.” He added, “Professor Rahul Tripathi, HoD, Political Science, Goa University, said: “We came together to support the idea of a classroom. A classroom is a sacred space. What a Political Science teacher discusses in classroom is as per norms, which have evolved through so many procedures, in which many academics have contributed. A non-expert has no locus standi to what is discussed inside a classroom.”
Last year, ABVP had protested against the appointment of a Muslim teacher for teaching Sanskrit in Banaras Hindu University, forcing him to resign.