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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Critic, scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigns as Ashoka professor

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who is also Contributing Editor, The Indian Express, has consistently, in his writing and public appearances, questioned the ruling establishment.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: March 18, 2021 10:44:23 am
Pratap Bhanu Mehta during an event in New Delhi. (Express photo: Anil Sharma)

Less than two years after he stepped down as Vice-Chancellor, noted scholar, political scientist and commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned as professor from Ashoka University Tuesday.

Mehta, who is also Contributing Editor, The Indian Express, has consistently, in his writing and public appearances, questioned the ruling establishment. He is considered one of the nation’s foremost scholars on politics and political theory, Constitutional law, governance and political economy.

Asked by The Indian Express if his criticism of the government had anything to do with his exit, the university sidestepped the question.

Instead, a spokesperson confirmed the resignation and said: “During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor and member of faculty, he has contributed immensely to the University. Ashoka University wishes him well for his future endeavours”.

The Indian Express also emailed questions on Mehta’s exit to five members of the University’s Governing Body, including incumbent Vice-Chancellor Malabika Sarkar; Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee; Chairman of the Board of Trustees Ashish Dhawan; founder and trustee Vineet Gupta and founder Pramath Raj Sinha.

While Mukherjee replied saying that as Chancellor, he does not deal with the administration of the University, others did not respond to a question on the circumstances of his exit.

When contacted, Mehta confirmed he had resigned but declined to comment any further. Ashoka, established through collective philanthropy, advertises itself as a world-class “pioneering liberal initiative” that encourages students “to think and to question”.

A graduate of Oxford and Princeton, Mehta has taught at Harvard, JNU, and the New York University School of Law. He is on the editorial board of leading academic journals including the American Political Science Review, The Journal of Democracy, and India and Global Affairs.

He won the Malcolm S Adisheshiah Award for Social Sciences in 2010; the Infosys Prize in 2011; and the Amartya Sen Award for Social Science, 2013.

In May 2017, Mehta, who was then president and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research, a policy think-tank, was named V-C of Ashoka University after what the university called “an extensive global search.”

Two years after joining the University, he stepped down as its V-C, stating that he needed “to return to more full-time academic life”. Subsequently, he continued teaching there.

In 2016, Mehta resigned from the Executive Council of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to protest the marginalisation of academic credentials in the selection process of its director. In 2006, he quit the National Knowledge Commission to protest against the UPA’s decision to introduce numerically mandated OBC quotas in Central institutions calling it against meaningful affirmative action.

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