More than 500 academics have condemned Visva-Bharati University’s (VBU) decision to suspend economics professor Sudipta Bhattacharyya, and urged the institution to revoke the suspension.
Bhattacharya was suspended on January 7 for alleging irregularities in the appointment of the principal of Patha Bhavana, one of the university’s institutions.
The economics professor is the president of the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association and recently found himself in the middle of a controversy involving the university’s vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. On December 9, Chakraborty reportedly claimed at a meeting with over 350 faculty members that the renowned economist had introduced himself as “Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen” in a phone call and urged him not to evict hawkers around his house. After Bhattacharrya sought clarification from Sen, the Nobel laureate dismissed the V-C’s claims.
In the letter defending Bhattacharyya, the academics wrote, “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.”
Among the signatories are Delhi University associate professor Abha Dev Habib, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor emerita Zoya Hasan, Kyoto University associate professor Rohan D’Souza, JNU professor emeritus Prabhat Patnaik.
The academics accused the VBU Executive Council of taking an arbitrary decision on flimsy grounds. They added, “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.”
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