Following Visva Bharati administration’s decision to place under suspension economics professor Sudipta Bhattacharyya, over 500 academicians have condemned the move and endorsed a letter addressed to the varsity, appealing to revoke Bhattacharya’s suspension.
Bhattacharya is known to have been a vocal critic of Visva Bharati Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty. He was placed under suspension on Thursday for alleging irregularities in the appointment of the principal of Patha Bhavana, one of the institutions of Visva Bharati.
In a letter -- that includes signatories such as Abha Dev Habib [associate professor, Delhi University], Zoya Hasan [professor emerita, JNU], Rohan D’souza [associate professor, Kyoto University], Prabhat Patnaik [professor emeritus, JNU] among others -- the academicians said, “Such an action also smacks of vengeful action from the University authorities particularly since Prof. Bhattacharyya, as an office-bearer of the faculty association, has been consistently raising questions about several irregularities in the University.”
The letter accuses the Executive Council of the varsity of taking an “arbitrary decision” on “flimsy grounds of ‘circulating complaints’”. “This, prima facie, goes against the principle of natural justice and freedom of expression,” read the letter.
It further says, “This seems to be the latest example of how universities are increasingly being run in an authoritarian manner in this country. Universities as critical spaces of academic inquiry need to preserve the freedom of raising questions. Any curbing of these basic rights and freedoms amounts to dismantling the foundational principles of a University. It is indeed of great irony that a University inspired by the life and work of an internationally acclaimed poet like Rabindranath Tagore has chosen to revoke the right to ask questions.”
The varsity has been a centre of multiple controversies in the recent past with VC Chakraborty drawing flak time and again for his authoritarian and intolerant attitude. In the most recent development, Chakraborty had made unfounded allegations against Nobel laureate Amartya Sen accusing him of encroaching on the university land.
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Read the full text of the letter and see the list of signatories here.