When ‘Liberal’ Ashoka University Had A Regressive Stand On A Kashmir Petition

Posted on October 14, 2016 in Specials

By Amrita Singh:

With flexible minimum attendance rules and the freedom to visit the hostel of the opposite sex, among many other things, Ashoka University is considered one of the most liberal institutes in our country. However, recent reports about the University suggest otherwise.

On July 25, two administration employees, a faculty member from Ashoka University, and 85 students signed a petition condemning state violence in Kashmir after Burhan Wani’s death and asking for the demilitarisation of the region. They also demanded that a plebiscite takes place in Kashmir as promised by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. The petition was misinterpreted and drew a lot of criticism online. People thought that it represented the entire University’s stand and not just of the people who had signed it. The administration immediately issued a clarification statement on July 28, saying, “Only a handful of individuals, including a few students of Ashoka University, had signed the letter, and it, in no way, represents Ashoka’s point of view. Ashoka University does not endorse the views held by these individuals, and at no point, supported them. In fact, Ashoka University condemns such behaviour, and had asked the individuals not to use the good name of the University to represent personal views and ideas.”

Ashoka University has undergraduate courses and offers the esteemed Young India Fellowship (YIF) as well. YIF is one-year multidisciplinary postgraduate diploma programme in Liberal Studies. Saurav Goswami, deputy manager of academic affairs, and Adil Mushtaq Shah, programme manager of academic affairs of the YIF, the two employees who had signed the petition reportedly resigned from their respective positions and sent their farewell emails to the students on October 7.

Since both of them were actively involved in college activities until a week before they sent the emails, YIF fellows think this may have been as they had signed the petition. Rajendran Narayanan, an assistant professor in the Mathematics department, was the only faculty member who had signed the petition. Now, there are rumours that the Maths Department has been asked to look for his replacement as well. The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Institute, the deputy dean of the YIF programme and the assistant dean of YIF programme, are scheduled to have a meeting with 10 YIF fellows today, on October 14, to discuss their concerns regarding the matter.

Not just this. On July 27, students were informed that emails from alumni to students and vice versa will go through a moderator. This may have been motivated by the fact that the Kashmir petition was circulated via mail. A student from the University told Campus Watch, “Undergraduate students only have a superficial idea of what’s been going on after the plebiscite fiasco but yes emails are being moderated. “There’s this huge debate between students and faculty on the censorship that is being imposed on us, but the students seem to be on the losing side.” Moreover, according to another student, students enrolled in the undergraduate courses have been asked to not speak to the media about this issue.

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