By Anand Singh:
The unceremonious sacking of Prof. Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay awardee, who was a visiting faculty at the department of chemical engineering at Indian Insitute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU), has the students seething with anger. This anger was on display on the evening of 8th of January, when a group of students were supposed to take out a demonstration to protest against this what one student termed as ‘the brazen display of naked intolerance by the University administration.’ In response, the administration decided to cordon off the entire IIT intersection by deploying a posse of security personnel in their full battle gear. This was intended to be an ostentatious display suppressing the democratic rights of the students at the University campus.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned stand-off, there was nothing hidden surreptitiously within the academic armoire of Prof. Pandey which might have rendered him susceptible to being sacked, let alone being raised a finger at. He was a visiting faculty at one of the departments of IIT BHU for the past two and a half years, his contract due to end in July. The premature termination of his contract, for which no convincing reason was produced by the University, has left open the ground for speculation.
According to a report published in The Hindu on the 6th of this month, the Magsaysay awardee has alleged that he has been removed on account of ideological differences with the university top brass. However, it has been made clear by the administration that he (Prof. Pandey) had been engaged in anti-national activities, and that he was a ‘Naxalite.’ Both the allegations seem to be premised upon a xenophobic intolerance, stemming from the fact that Prof. Pandey had been an outspoken critic of the University, and had recently locked horns with the administrative apparatus demanding that 40 employees whose contracts were terminated be made permanent. This was bound to make him unpopular with the current dispensation. “What we are witnessing at the University of late is in close synchrony with the events across the country. If ideological difference warrants the ouster of a renowned academician from his post, then there is some serious reason to fuss about,” mourned Santu Patra, a student at the institution.
There is more to the story though than is visible to the common eye. Avinash Kumar Pandey, a final year masters student at the Department of Political Science, declared in a Facebook post on the 12th of this month that he had lodged a complaint with the Vice-chancellor against Prof. Sandeep Pandey around 2 months ago. He later goes on to thank the VC for acting decisively on his petition. That the incumbent VC of BHU is an RSS man is a foregone fact. What strikes as a surprise is that Avinash himself declares in his Facebook profile that he is associated with the Sangh. A report had been published in a local news website citing the concerns of the said student. The administration appears not to have authenticated the veracity of the complaint before taking a decision to dispense with his services.
BHU has long been known to be a bastion of the RSS, something which I have dealt with an earlier article. Nevertheless, sacking a professor citing trumped-up and unverified charges is a new phenomena at this institution. Within a university campus, ideological differences run rife and are even welcomed. What is extremely unfortunate is the fact that an esteemed professor is branded a Naxalite, with no apparent proof to back the insinuation. Anuja Shanker, an alumnus of the university who works with the Times of India echoed similar feelings when she said: “There had been little space for ideological dissidence within the campus before as well. Whatever little there was left of it is being snuffed out systematically.”
Prof. Pandey has maintained that the ideology with which he most closely associates himself is Gandhian and that he has been removed at the behest of VC BHU and dean of academic affairs, IIT BHU, both of whom are close to the RSS. Nothing, then, precludes the fact that the decision to remove him was politically motivated. Since the administration could not satisfactorily dig up something which might have the potential to put him in the closet, it resorted to naked totalitarianism. This, I sincerely hope, does not go on to become a precedent since the university would soon be celebrating its centennial year with much pomposity. It would be tantamount to making a farce of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya’s cherished dream of turning BHU into a cosmopolitan space, brimming with ideas of all kinds. The administration must, at least, preserve his ideals, a man who they chose to worship.
Update: In a previous version, the dean of academic affairs had been incorrectly mentioned as dean of student affairs.
Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here.
You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.