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Kashmiri professor’s sacking: Students urge Lt Governor to revoke order

Cops say Altaf Hussain Pandit’s services were terminated because of his past association with militancy.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: May 16, 2022 7:42:04 am
Professor Dr Altaf Hussain Pandit. (Express/Sourced)

Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha sacked Kashmir University’s Chemistry professor Dr Altaf Hussain Pandit on May 13, labelling him a “threat to the security of the state”. This has led to protests from the university’s students and scholars, with more than 100 of them writing to Sinha to urge him to revoke the order. On Saturday morning, students and research scholars held a sit-in outside the Chemistry department, holding up placards that read, “Black day”

The Union Territory’s administrator terminated Dr Pandit’s services under Article 311 (2) (C), which allows the government to sack its employees without seeking an explanation from them or holding an inquiry into their conduct. The police claimed Dr Pandit was sacked because of his association with militancy in the past. Sources in the police said the chemistry professor crossed over to Pakistan for arms training in the early 1990s but shunned militancy on his return to the Valley soon after. “There has been nothing incriminating against him in recent years but there are apprehensions that he has been close to some members of the Jamat-e-Islami,” said a police officer.

Dr Pandit — who has served as a member of the sub-committee on New Education Policy (NEP), 2020 — is an award-winning scientist and editorial board member of publications such as the Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences and Computer Simulation in Application, and the Lifescience Global publishing company in Canada.

His colleagues and students describe him as an “honest, dedicated and talented” professor. In the letter to Sinha on Saturday, students and scholars said the professor could “never have any connection with any anti-national activity in any manner”. The signatories added, “The experience we have had with Dr Altaf Hussain Pandit and the person we know, he is always a kind soul, a person of high value, character, and stature. Prof Altaf Hussain Pandit is a father figure to us and we have always heard him motivating and inspiring us by saying, ‘Be contributors rather than takers and make sure you and your work make this world a better place’. We are sure such a person would never do anything that is against the interests of this nation or its benefits and are sure there might be some misunderstanding in this regard.”

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Dr Pandit completed his master’s degree (1993), MPhil (1995), and PhD (2000) in applied Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

He started his career as a teacher at the Sainik School in Mansbal in Kashmir in 1999 and subsequently became a scientist at the Pollution Control Board. In 2001, he was appointed lecturer at Kashmir University and became an assistant professor three years later. He was set to be appointed the head of the department when the termination order was issued.

The professor has received the Young Scientist Award from the Indian Chemical Society and has been honoured by the Atomic Energy Commission of India for his work. Dr Pandit has also served as the coordinator of the UGC’s Special Assistance Programme (UGC-SAP), the J&K Coordinator for the National Science Olympiad, and the coordinator for the Australian National Quiz. He has also been the coordinator for the Virtual Laboratory Nodal Centre, which was supported by the Union Ministry of Education (formerly, the Ministry of Human Resource Development), and a member of the advisory board of the Board of Professional Entrance Examination, Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr Pandit has also been a member of the Board of PhD examiners at Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, and Vikram University in Ujjain. The chemistry professor has published more than 60 papers in national and international scientific journals and has a citation score of over 1,450.

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