Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Former Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University, resigns from his position. Followed by him, Arvind Subramaniam, founding director of the Ashoka Center for Economic Policy and Professor of Economics, also quits. Apart from that, two other professors from the University are on the verge of resigning.
Who Is Pratap Bhanu Mehta And The Impact Of His Leave
Pratap Bhanu Mehta is among India’s four most public intellectuals. He was the Former Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University and the President of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. With such credible positions, Pratap has a widely appreciated image. Among India’s most receptive and cutting Columnists, he is a contributing editor to the Indian Express. He resigned from Ashoka University without any reason on March 16, 2021. Later, he revealed that ‘prevailing circumstances’ forbade him from continuing at Ashoka.
What Exactly Did These Circumstances Mean?
The columns that Pratap put out in the open remained to question. They are deeply critical of the ruling Government, and not just the Modi Government, but also the UPA Government in the past. His words always put forth that he did not have a transactional relationship with the Government. Despite this, Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister, had made him a convened part of the National Knowledge Commission. In no way did it also affect the fact that he was the President of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.
However, the differences were:
- Establishment of a new Government in 2014
- The presence of a majority Government, unlike the previous one.
- Lack of intellectuals and criticism tolerance
Yet, Pratap comes off as a questioning public intellectual with a force of reading and scholarship, undesired by the ruling Government.
Connection With Ashoka?
The 154 founders of Ashoka University are not alumni. They are businessmen who put up higher stakes where Government agencies come into play. These founders, divided by governments, often have preferences of their own and get taunted for the controversial writing and speech by Pratap. Under this, Pratap resigned as Vice-Chancellor way back in 2019 during the Second Parliamentary elections.
The constraints that Ashoka puts over an intellect like Pratap made him quit his post. Following the same, Arvind Subramaniam also resigned, saying that Ashoka University cannot protect the academic freedom of speech. Subramanian had joined Ashoka University in July last year as a Professor of Economics.
In a joint statement issued Sunday morning, the University said, ‘We acknowledge that there have been some lapses in institutional processes which we will work to rectify in consultation with all stakeholders. This will reaffirm our commitment to academic autonomy and freedom which have always been at the core of the Ashoka University ideals.’
The Edict, in one of their articles, titled ‘Pratap Bhanu Mehta Resigns, Paving The Way For A New Plot’, states that his resignation would give way to the smoother acquisition of a new plot of land to expand the campus. Ashoka Scholar’s Program, formal recognition for the fourth-year post-graduate diploma, was also a part of the deal.
Dr Sarkar cleared this in a town hall meeting. He said that the plot talked of had been procured several years ago, and the four-year programme was also in progress.
Student And Public Reactions
On March 20, the students claimed that they would form a separate alliance movement demanding the current vice-Chancellor’s resignation. Vice-A two-day boycott of classes started on Monday, March 22, as a protest against the ongoing events. They desire that Mr Mehta be given an offer letter. A group mail was dedicated and sent to him saying that the University was poorly resourced without him. He was requested to withdraw his resignation. ‘Not My Ashoka’ was the slogan and chant by students after the proceedings.
Apart from that, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan made a LinkedIn post regarding the same. He states how free speech was taking a severe blow after Mehta resigned from Ashoka.