An associate professor of the Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ) has been suspended by the Vice-Chancellor for inviting a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor to an event to mark Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary earlier this month.
Referring to the invitation from Dr Shreya Bhattacharji to JNU prof N M Panini, who eventually did not attend the event, the suspension order reads: “Prof Panini is considered as mentor of the group of students of JNU, who were involved in anti-national activities in JNU campus recently. As such, the invitation to Prof Panini by Dr Shreya Bhattacharji, without examining his credentials, led to widespread criticism from different quarters of the society as a result of which not only the image of the University was tarnished as well as the reputation of the Vice-Chancellor was put on stake.”
The order, accessed by The Indian Express, also said the invitation to “a person of disputed integrity” had led to Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu cancelling her visit to the university as chief guest for the event. The order also said Bhattacharji had invited Panini without informing the V-C, and that her actions amounted to “misconduct”.
However, Panini told The Indian Express that he had been extended an invitation by the V-C as well. “The programme was initially supposed to happen several months ago but was eventually finalised for March 19. At the time, the V-C spoke to me over the phone and said he was happy to invite me for the lecture. I had asked them to book my ticket via Delhi from Mysore where I stay. When I reached Delhi on the 17th, the V-C called me again and said that the programme had been cancelled,” he said.
Panini added, “He only said that there was some agitation by students, which is why they were cancelling it. I probed and asked him if it was because I was from JNU. He said ‘Yes. There’s nothing personal against you but it’s because you are from JNU’. My ticket from Delhi to Bangalore was also cancelled by them later.”
V-C Prof Nand Kumar Yadav could not be reached for comment. A university spokesperson said the suspension order is self-explanatory, and that the Governor cancelled at the last moment.
Bhattacharji, an associate professor in the university’s Centre for English Language, could not be contacted for comment. She was the organising committee head for the event that was held from March 17-19.
Bhattacharji also held the posts of Dean of School of Language, Dean of School of Education and Dean of Students’ Welfare. She has been removed from all her responsibilities. The order also stated that she would remain attached to the university headquarters at Brambe in Ranchi and would not leave without permission.
Panini said he was “appalled and deeply upset” by the action taken against Bhattacharji. “I am appalled and deeply upset that they have decided to suspend Shreya. She has really been holding up the campus and its academics there,” he said over phone from Shimoga, Karnataka.
Expressing shock at being called the “mentor” of students who indulged in alleged anti-national activities, he said, “Firstly, I retired from JNU in 2009. Secondly, I have always thought differently from my former Leftist colleagues while being a staunch critic of the Right. In my speech at the programme, I was going to refer to the recent developments in JNU and speak about how if India breaks up, the minorities and other marginalised groups will suffer the most. But I wasn’t allowed to do so.”
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