Historian, biographer and author Ramachandra Guha is not joining Ahmedabad University (AU) in Gujarat due to circumstances beyond his control, he tweeted Thursday, two weeks after the RSS student wing opposed his appointment and demanded the university rescind its offer.
On October 16, AU announced Guha’s appointment as the Shrenik Lalbhai Chair Professor of Humanities and director of the Gandhi Winter School at the university’s School of Arts and Sciences. On October 19, members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) registered their protest against the decision.
Confirming this, Pravin Desai, ABVP’s secretary for Ahmedabad city, told The Indian Express: “We made a representation before AU Registrar B M Shah. We said that we want intellectuals in our educational institutes and not anti-nationals, who can also be termed as ‘urban Naxals’. We had quoted anti-national content from his (Guha’s) books to the Registrar. We told him, the person you are calling is a ‘Communist’. If he is invited to Gujarat, there would be a JNU-kind anti-national sentiment.”
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I shall not be joining Ahmedabad University. I wish AU well; it has fine faculty and an outstanding Vice Chancellor. And may the spirit of Gandhi one day come alive once more in his native Gujarat.
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) November 1, 2018
The memorandum is addressed to the Vice-Chancellor and demands cancellation of Guha’s appointment. It describes his work as “critical of India’s Hindu culture”.
“His such writings have encouraged divisive tendencies, alienation in the name of independence of the individual, freeing terrorists in the name of independence of the individual, and separating Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian union, in well known universities like Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Central University, Hyderabad,” the memorandum states.
Pankaj Chandra, former director of IIM, Bangalore, was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
“The element of a mobilized ABVP posed a particular kind of risk. There was a real concern that he (Guha) could be harmed (on campus),” said a source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Sources said the AU administration reached out to Guha on Monday to discuss the possibility of deferring the date of his joining. He was supposed to join AU on February 1, 2019.
“It was clear that the (university) administration was under immense (political) pressure. What was not clear was if that pressure would ease up even after the (Lok Sabha) elections,” said a source close to the historian. Two days after AU reached out to him, Guha tweeted his decision to not join the university.
“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I shall not be joining Ahmedabad University. I wish AU well; it has fine faculty and an outstanding Vice-Chancellor. And may the spirit of Gandhi one day come alive once more in his native Gujarat,” he said on Thursday. When contacted, Guha declined to elaborate.
When contacted, AU’s Registrar said: “The university has no comment to make on this announcement. Even I got to know from the tweet. The Vice-Chancellor is out of the country. The university will look into how to take this development.”
The office of the AU Chancellor, Sanjay Lalbhai, who is also Chairman and MD of Arvind Ltd, did not respond to calls.
On October 16, announcing Guha’s appointment, Chandra had said in a statement: “With the interest in liberal education gaining impetus in India, Dr Guha will bring his interpretation of history including environmental, political, contemporary and even cricket history to develop interesting and powerful programmes and research that stand at the confluence of various disciplines. Equally important, his presence will help the University build our own dialogue around (Mahatma) Gandhi.”
Ahmedabad University, which advertises itself as an institution offering students “a liberal education” and moulding “independent thinkers and compassionate leaders”, was established in 2009 by the Ahmedabad Education Society (AES) , a non-profit educational trust.
AES was established more than eight decades ago, at the behest of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, by Kasturbhai Lalbhai, the doyen of the textile industry; Ganesh Mavalankar, the first Parliament Speaker and Amrutlal Hargovandas, a prominent industrialist of Ahmedabad.
The society played a significant role in setting up national institutions such as Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, National Institute of Design, Physical Research Laboratory and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology.