After Amartya Sen ouster, Nalanda Chancellor George Yeo quits: Politics, rather not be in it

Yeo said he was not consulted about dissolution of the board, and that the sudden move was “bound up with Indian domestic politics”.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: November 26, 2016 6:03 am
George Yeo, Nalanda University, Amartya Sen, Nalanda University chancellor, Nalanda University chancellor ousted, Nalanda University new chancellor, India education India news Singapore’s George Yeo with Sen: ‘Dissolution of old Nalanda board came as a complete surprise to me’

Four days after Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was dropped from the governing board of Nalanda University, Chancellor George Yeo, a former Singapore foreign minister, submitted his resignation to President Pranab Mukherjee as a mark of protest.

Elaborating on the reasons behind his resignation, in a statement sent to The Indian Express and in a Facebook post, Yeo said he was not consulted about dissolution of the board, and that the sudden move was “bound up with Indian domestic politics”.

Yeo’s decision was conveyed in an email sent to members of the governing board on Friday morning, days after Sen’s nine-year association with the university was terminated by the government on November 21.

The Indian Express had first reported on the government’s decision to dissolve the board and constitute a new one, which led to Yeo’s resignation. Sen, who had criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously, had quit as Chancellor in February 2015 and hit out at the BJP-led government later.
In his Facebook post, Yeo said, “The sudden dissolution of the old Nalanda Board is bound up with Indian domestic politics, which I do not wish to be embroiled in. I am not an Indian citizen and prefer not to make further comments beyond what is contained in my statement.”

Also Read | The government does not share the idea of Nalanda: Amartya Sen

In the statement, he said, “The order which the Visitor (President Mukherjee) approved on November 21, 2016, dissolving the Governing Board and creating a new one came as a complete surprise to me and to most members of the old Governing Board. I was neither involved in the preparation nor consulted beforehand.”

He stated: “The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University’s development. It is puzzling why I, as Chancellor, was not even given notice of it. When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now. Accordingly, and with deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as Chancellor to the Visitor.”

There was no response from the Ministry of External Affairs to requests from The Indian Express seeking comment on Yeo’s resignation.

When contacted, bureaucrat-turned-BJP member N K Singh, who was on the previous board and is part of the new one as India’s representative, supported the government move. “What has been done is not a reconstitution of the board, but the first constitution as per the Nalanda Act as it stands today,” said Singh.
Sugata Bose, Harvard University professor and Trinamool Congress MP, who was dropped along with Sen, backed Yeo’s move. “George Yeo acted with great dignity under the most aggravating circumstances. He has done exactly what a distinguished self-respecting person was expected to do. I entirely agree with his assessment. He was given certain assurances about the university’s autonomy, which has not been kept. As Indians, we should keep our promises,” said Bose.

“In the days of the freedom struggle, we used to accuse the British government of perfidy. The government of Independent India should think of India’s prestige in the comity of nations,” said Bose, a noted historian and the grand-nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

In his Facebook post, Yeo said that on the Nalanda project, he has worked closely with leaders of different political parties, including the BJP and Congress. He said that he remained completely committed to the original mission of Nalanda as supported by the leaders of the East Asian Summit in 2009 and as debated and unanimously agreed to by all political parties in India’s Upper and Lower Houses when the Act was passed in 2010.

“Nalanda is an idea whose time has come. It is bigger than and will outlast anyone of us,” he said, in the statement and on Facebook.

“When I was appointed Chancellor in July 2015, I was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended Act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on. The amended Act would have removed a major flaw in the current Act, which, in essence, offers Governing Board seats to East Asian Summit countries making the highest financial contributions in the last three years. This provision, which was never recommended by the Nalanda Mentor Group, would not have been a good way to constitute the Governing Board and was the reason the Government of India requested the Nalanda Mentor Group to continue functioning as the Governing Board for a number of years until the Act could be amended,” he said.

“For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act is amended. This is of course entirely the prerogative of the Government of India,” he said.
Yeo said that pending the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor, the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Gopa Sabharwal, whose extended term ended on November 24, was to stay on as interim Vice-Chancellor. This is provided for in the University Statutes and fully supported by the old Governing Board, he said.

“However, on November 22, the Visitor overruled the Governing Board and directed that the senior-most Dean be appointed instead,” he said.
While Yeo was brought in as Chancellor in 2015, Sen continued as Governing Board member — he was part of the Nalanda Mentors Group (NMG) since 2007, which was tasked by the Manmohan Singh government in 2007 to revive the historic university and make it a unique centre of learning.

On November 21, President Mukherjee, in his capacity as Visitor, approved the constitution of the Governing Board in accordance with section 7 of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

Sources said that the governing board has been constituted with the following members: Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and five members from among the member states, India, China, Australia, Laos PDR and Thailand, which provide maximum financial assistance during a period of three years.

Apart from N K Singh, sources said, Secretary (East) in MEA Preeti Saran, two members representing the Bihar government, one member not below the rank of additional secretary in the HRD Ministry and three ‘renowned academicians/ educationists’ would be nominated by the Centre.
“These are Prof Arvind Sharma, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Canada; Prof Lokesh Chandra, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations; and, Dr Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, Niti Ayog,” they said.

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First Published on: November 26, 2016 4:17 am
  1. L
    lata
    Mar 1, 2017 at 4:02 am
    This is what is called intolerance. Sham has expressed an opinion. If you do not have the courtesy to tolerate it, it is "you" and not he who is a shame. Shame on you.
    Reply
    1. P
      pallav
      Jan 13, 2017 at 10:37 am
      In INDIA we support HRD ministers with Fake degrees but hate intellectuals .then I think manoj tivari is good for this position.
      Reply
      1. A
        Anuradha Kalhan
        Nov 26, 2016 at 3:26 am
        Now Subramaniam Swamy or ji will take over. depending on what RSS decides.
        Reply
        1. A
          arun
          Nov 26, 2016 at 5:20 am
          Why are these Christians and outsiders like Amartya Sen serving vested interests heading such a great historical and cultural insution like Nalanda ? We need highly educated Indians who are proud of our Indian traditions and scientific thinking to be heading Insutions like Nalanda.
          Reply
          1. A
            Abhishek
            Nov 27, 2016 at 1:07 am
            Are there any names that qualify your "educated Indian" criteria?
            Reply
            1. A
              arun dass
              Nov 26, 2016 at 4:17 am
              AMARTYA SEN'S IDEOLOGY IS ROTTEN BY CORRUPTED CHOR PARTY CONGRESS , THIS FELLOW HAS LOST HIS BRAIN POWER....HE LOVES TERRORISM LIKE ZAKIR NAIK ........
              Reply
              1. A
                Aditya
                Nov 26, 2016 at 2:12 am
                Amartya Sen is last pillar of nehruvian economics, throw him out.
                Reply
                1. M
                  MK
                  Nov 28, 2016 at 1:41 am
                  This is a country where even a Bharat Ratna - Amartya Sen - can be humiliated by the BJPee, the same party's AB Bajpayee govt had conferred the highest civilian award to Prof. Sen. Shameful, indeed.
                  Reply
                  1. H
                    hypo crite
                    Nov 26, 2016 at 1:25 am
                    This govt has insatiable hunger of control, they cant make international university. They might appoint Dr Deenanath batra dean
                    Reply
                    1. M
                      Murthy
                      Nov 26, 2016 at 12:47 am
                      George Yeo should know that in his native country, Singapore, NONE who had ever criticised Lee Kuan Yew or been ociated with J.B. Jayaratnam (the only real opposition leader Singapore ever had) would ever be allowed to occupy positions in any of Singapore's Universities. Prof. Amartya Sen is a POLITICIAN. He is not a mere academic any more. More over, in the formation of Nalanda University, Amartya Sen spent too much money and took too much time. He does NOT have the skills to organise and run a University, let alone an International one. Therefore, it may not be any political reason to drop Amartya Sen. He has a good job at Columbia University in the USA. He will not have much time for Nalanda.
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                      1. A
                        Arihant
                        Nov 26, 2016 at 7:36 pm
                        Would it make any difference if Ravan was a Muslim? Good is good and bad is bad, whether you attach any label to it or not.
                        Reply
                        1. V
                          Vivek Iyer
                          Nov 26, 2016 at 3:27 am
                          Now Yeo has gone, Singapore is off the hook for the 5 million dollar proposed Library.
                          Reply
                          1. V
                            Vihari Naidu
                            Nov 26, 2016 at 1:46 am
                            Yale educated Smriti Irani will be the new chancellor and Baba Ramdev the new vice chancellor.
                            Reply
                            1. D
                              David
                              Nov 26, 2016 at 3:04 am
                              Nobody is that indispensable. Let them go. Some else better will come. India has huge talent.lt;br/gt;Regarding nobel the less said the better. Henry Kissinger has a nobel. The war monger. Obama got a Nobel in his first term. What did he do. And Amartya Sen got nobel for his thesis on equal distribution of poverty which the West like to apply on third world countries.
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                Ram Pathak
                                Nov 26, 2016 at 2:09 am
                                Resurrection of Nalanda University was not done by any of Congress governments but by Vajpayee got.UPA had packed its management with fellow travellers. NDA should have reconsuted it 2 years back. Why crying wolf now.......
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  shiravanthe sridhar
                                  Nov 26, 2016 at 5:14 am
                                  Chuck these intolerant Commies one after another.
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    shiravanthe sridhar
                                    Nov 26, 2016 at 5:16 am
                                    They will be thousand times better than these commies.
                                    Reply
                                    1. R
                                      Ram
                                      Nov 26, 2016 at 7:20 pm
                                      'ouster' then you guys mean there is nothing like retirement or giving chance to fresh blood/new ideas when left/commies occupy positions paid by tax payers? All leftists and 'intolerance' brigade should have quit their positions voluntarily when their appointee and mentor UPA was rejected mively by people of India. Shameless parasites, wants to live of tax payers money lifelong!
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        Ram
                                        Nov 26, 2016 at 7:25 pm
                                        It should mbe made mandatory that all government apointees should resign when new government takes over so that it can implment its vision by bringing people who understand its ideas. Commies/lefties/congies in India never known to leave government perks, awards and perks even if people kick them badly and ask them to get lost. When will these parasites understand this basic decency of a democracy? To pack up when people reject their masters?
                                        Reply
                                        1. S
                                          Shamsul
                                          Nov 26, 2016 at 3:49 am
                                          This is the second destruction of historical fame ancient Nalanda University. It was destro by armed gangs in 12th Century and presently RSS/BJP government of India is on to this task. It only shows anti-intellectual/knowledge mind-set of our government.
                                          Reply
                                          1. S
                                            Sunder
                                            Nov 26, 2016 at 1:55 am
                                            Die-hard bhakt, evidently.
                                            Reply
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