Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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Ashoka University removes economist Mihir Shah as visiting faculty, students up in arms

Visiting professor Mihir Shah taught a popular course on Political Economy of India’s Development. Ashoka University students & alumni have started a reinstatement petition.

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New Delhi: Economist Mihir Shah, a former member of the Planning Commission during the UPA government, has said that he was abruptly asked to leave Ashoka University after seven years as a visiting faculty.

Shah, who is an advocate of MNREGA and social welfare, taught ‘The Political Economy of India’s Development’ course at the Young India Fellowship (YIF) programme for post-graduate students.

In an emailed response to questions from ThePrint, Shah said that he received an email from Pramath Raj Sinha, co-founder of the university, about the “non-renewal” of his annual contract citing “some curricula and budgetary changes following a detailed review recently”.

In his response to the university, Shah said if there was an issue related to remuneration, it could have been discussed personally with him, rather than over email. He also called his exit “arbitrary” and expressed worry on what he said was the way the university was being run.

Also read: Ashoka University did what famed Delhi University could not – stand by its teachers

Students and alumni support Shah

Shah’s exit has led to a face-off between the administration of the Sonepat-based university and its alumni and students, who have started a petition to reinstate him, according to an email chain accessed by ThePrint.

The petition, signed by over 200 students and alumni, said Shah’s course was one of the most sought-after at Ashoka University.

YIF is a one-year post-graduate, multi-disciplinary programme now in its eighth year. The programme offers courses in a range of core and elective subjects including math, literature and leadership. Shah’s course, which comprised 10 lectures and ran for about a month, was one of the core courses.

Ashoka University vice-chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta, it is learnt, informed the alumni and students that the administration had “reluctantly decided” to not invite Shah from next year, assuring them that the management’s decision is in the institution’s best interests.

The student who started the petition declined to comment. Anjoo Mohun, director of communications at the university, said it has “no comment on the issue”.

Ashoka University is predominantly a liberal curriculum university, and has an impressive faculty list from Gopalkrishna Gandhi to Gilles Vernier to Urvashi Butalia. In a few years, it has established itself as a leading liberal arts university in India.

Won’t return

Shah said the university’s decision came “completely out of the blue” — in fact, the feedback over the last seven years had been about how “invaluable” his course was among students and YIF staff. He said he brought a “unique blend of experience and expertise” to his teaching.

He said he was aware of the students’ petition and respected their “solidarity and support”, but said he had no intention to return to teach at Ashoka University.

Also read: Ashoka University slammed for teaching ‘anti-Hindu, anti-Brahmin’ book

This report has been updated to reflect that Mihir Shah was a visiting faculty at Ashoka University and re-edited for accuracy.

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  1. People who use phrases such as tukde tukde and urban Naxalite to attack others reveal how little they understand about governance. My advice for such people would be to channelise their frustration with life into something more useful for society. Academic environments require unrestrained engagement with ideas and their assumptions. That includes capitalism, socialism, Marxism etc. It is very very important to doubt everything if one is serious about studying ideas for their own sake

  2. It is unclear what ia going on here. On the one hand, the VC of this University is a known urban naxalite and a tukde tukde gang member. On the other hand, Mihir Shah seems like a lefty bureaucrat. Is he not “tukde” enough for Ashoka’ administrators?

  3. I feel myself lucky not to have gone to a liberal arts University and become a naxalite. What amuses me is government junkie leftists working in private universities.

  4. Shameful. This is not Hindu state. Today Modi targetting Muslims tomorrow they may target sikhs. Sikhs joined India on the assurance of Gandhi and Nehru. It is better to have separate state of Sikhs now. Why should Sikh stay with India, when it’s not secular. Let Hindu live in hindu rashtra peacefully and let sikhs also enjoy separate state in which all secular person can live happily.

    • Where the Hindu Muslim issue in this? Where is Modi’s involvement in a decision taken by a private institution?

    • Pal Singh’s comment is highly objectionable. Most Indians will not agree with his comment. Hindus and Sikhs are cousins and have strong social bonds.

    • It is better to have separate state of Sikhs now

      Ask from Pakistan if you have guts. Bulk of Sikh state including it’s capital Lahore, prior to annexation in 1849, was in present day Pakistan

      • You have to give Sikhs the land where they live. Present day Punjab can be given to Sikhs. Farm laws will be solved.

  5. Post 2014, everything is being linked to Modi Govt….. There are plenty of faculty in all the universities who have socialist and communist mindset….. It’s not possible for a PM to go to the micro level and pressurise the university to discontinue the services of a Professor…. Inspite of the fact that the present VC of Ashoka University Pratap Bhanu Mehta is a strong votary of Gandhi Family and critical of Modi Govt…. And if The VC is bowing to the pressure of Modi Govt then you should criticize VC in unequivocal terms also….. But the writer has made Govt a Villain in the episode without any concrete proof…. The hold of the Communists in faculties across India, is so strong that any action, howsoever genuine, invites criticism….. And the writer after writer find the platform at ThePrint to air their biased approach through it with the connivance of its owners…. Which is most of the time Anti Modi…. Not Anti Govt…..

  6. Good to see the Management weeding out the Thukde Thukde lumpen elements from their faculty. This infestation runs deep, India needs a McCarthy.

  7. It is a question of a few days .. when the new Government is formed his reinstatement will happen .

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