IN AN unprecedented move, the Central University of Gujarat (CUG) has issued showcause notices to nine faculty members based on a complaint that they canvassed for anti-BJP candidates, including Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore, Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel, during the state assembly elections last year.
The university’s order comes despite the fact that the antecedents of the complaint, which also blames the teachers for attending a Congress event, remain unclear.
The unsigned complaint is written in English on a letterhead of the ABVP, the students’ organisation affiliated to the RSS, with the line, “Students of ABVP of CUG”, at the end. However, when contacted by The Indian Express, the ABVP’s CUG representative and a state-level office-bearer denied having sent any such complaint.
The complaint addressed to Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar includes as “documentary evidence” a photograph of the teachers, purportedly taken at an event in Ahmedabad that was attended by Congress president Rahul Gandhi last November.
Two other photographs have also been attached, including one of a professor sitting with Gandhi and another of the faculty members with a teachers’ union representative from Delhi along with the caption, “all CUG faculty canvassing inside university”.
There are no dates mentioned on the three photographs but the faculty members are identified by name using arrow marks. The complaint is dated November 17, 2017, while the Congress event, the Navsarjan Gyaan Adhikar Sabha, was held on November 24, 2017.
The complaint also accuses the teachers of “making Central University of Gujarat another JNU”.
CUG Vice-Chancellor Syed Abdul Bari confirmed that the university has acted on references forwarded by the HRD Ministry, office of the Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the state education department. All three had forwarded the complaint, he said.
“Since we cannot reply suo motu on behalf of the teachers to the MHRD, we had to issue a showcause notice asking them to explain their role mentioned in the complaint by the ABVP. The pictures are not dated but in one of these, the political party and its president are clearly seen in the backdrop,” Bari told The Indian Express.
The notices were issued to one professor, one associate professor and seven assistant professors, and describes their participation in the event as a violation of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules.
Sources said the faculty responded Friday, which was the deadline mentioned in the notice.
When contacted by The Indian Express, the professors who were served the notices declined comment. Sources said the faculty is of the opinion that the event was only a discussion on the problems faced by teachers in Gujarat. “Attending an event does not amount to canvassing for a political party in elections,” said a CUG teacher, who did not wish to be identified.
Rule 5 of the CCS (Conduct) Rule prohibits all government employees from associating themselves with any political party. It also forbids them from canvassing in elections.
Gujarat CEO Dr S Murali Krishna said, “The office had informed the education department about such a complaint that was addressed to the MHRD, a copy of which was marked to this office.” Though not naming the ABVP, Dr Krishna said it was “under the name of some association and not any person”.
In reply to the CEO’s letter requesting “necessary action on the said complaint”, the state Education Department on December 19, 2017, directed CUG to act according to the Model Code of Conduct rules.
“We had received the complaint and as per procedure, forwarded it to CUG to take necessary action. Since the university does not come under the education department but MHRD, we cannot direct them as to what action to take against the complaint,” said Anju Sharma, Principal Secretary (Higher and Technical Education), Gujarat.
Seeking Javadekar’s “urgent intervention”, the complaint alleges that “some of the teachers are involved in canvassing the elections in Gujarat mainly for Alpesh Thakoor (Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore), Jignesh Mevana (Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani) and Hardik Patel and the Congress party openly on the campus and classroom compelling the students to vote for them to save the state and country from communal forces”.
It also targets former V-C R K Kale, a scientist who had moved from JNU to take charge of CUG in 2009 before returning to the Delhi institution in 2014.
“The first VC was professor from JNU and he has put 30 to 40 teachers who are from JNU who are completely Marxists, anti government, anti university, anti establishment and anti development. They work only for destruction and not constructive development of students and the country. There are some 10 to 15 such teachers who are leaders of this strong JNU group who are corrupting students and other teachers and employees and spoiling the development of the University and not allowing the university to develop smoothly,” the complaint alleges.
“These teachers are regularly meeting these people and instead of academics are involved in politics in the campus and poisoning the minds of the students. We want to ask if government employees can involve in election politics,” it claims.
Naming the faculty members, the complaint states that the “Ministry can check their background and their links with the JNU and Jamia Milia University in Delhi”.
“Unless the Ministry takes serious action against them they are going to make Central University of Gujarat another JNU and in the middle of Gujarat. We request the Minister to check this and take action before it goes out of hand,” it claims.
When contacted, Chancellor of CUG, Prof Y K Alagh, said, “Since I am not aware about this case and have not seen the complaint, I cannot comment on it. But it is a matter of fact that the former V-C R K Kale was a distinguished scientist from JNU, a biologist who is back in JNU now.”
When contacted by The Indian Express, Kale declined comment.
The ABVP in Gujarat denied having sent any such complaint to the HRD Minister. “We have made several complaints regarding the food quality, canteen services and the drinking water issue. But we had never made any such complaint against professors for canvassing during elections,” said CUG’s ABVP president Vijay Mishra.
“There has been no complaint made by the state ABVP unit against CUG teachers for canvassing during elections,” said Naresh Desai, a Gujarat University Senate member who was ABVP state secretary until February.
“The notice is a reflection of the vindictive attitude of the ministry and the university administration. Discussion and deliberation is the foundation of higher education. We condemn the university’s action,” said Aditya Narayan Misra, former president of Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA).