Thursday, December 8, 2022
HomeIndia'Grievous blow to free speech' — Raghuram Rajan on Pratap Mehta’s exit...

‘Grievous blow to free speech’ — Raghuram Rajan on Pratap Mehta’s exit from Ashoka University

Nearly 180 academics from Yale, Columbia, Oxford universities also voiced support for Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who quit as a professor of Ashoka University earlier this week.

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New Delhi: Noted economist and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, besides nearly 180 academics from international universities, including Yale, Columbia, Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, have expressed solidarity with scholar and political expert Pratap Bhanu Mehta after he resigned as a professor of Ashoka University earlier this week.

In a long post on LinkedIn, Rajan wrote, “Free speech suffered a grievous blow this week”.

“Ashoka’s founders should have realised that their mission was indeed not to take political sides, but to continue to protect the right of people like Pratap Bhanu Mehta to speak, for in doing so, they were enabling Ashoka to make its greatest contribution to India’s wellbeing — identifying what is wrong and encouraging us all to remedy it,” he stated.

Rajan also wrote that “Professor Mehta is a thorn in the side of the establishment”. 

“He is no ordinary thorn because he skewers those in government and in high offices like the Supreme Court with vivid prose and thought-provoking arguments. It is not that he has much sympathy for the opposition either. As a true academic, he is an equal opportunity critic,” he wrote.

Mehta, who resigned Tuesday, wrote in his resignation letter that the founders of the university made it “abundantly clear” that his association with the institution was a “political liability”.


Also read: Debate, fact, fiction around Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s Ashoka exit & Gen Bajwa’s signals to India


‘Ashoka’s trustees forced his resignation’

Meanwhile, nearly 180 academics voiced their support for Mehta in an open letter, titled ‘A Dangerous Attack on Academic Freedom’. 

The letter, addressed to the Ashoka University trustees, administrators and faculty, stated how “distressed” they are to have learnt about Mehta’s resignation under “political pressure”.

“A prominent critic of the current Indian government and defender of academic freedom, he had become a target for his writings. It seems that Ashoka’s trustees, who should have treated defending him as their institutional duty, instead all but forced his resignation,” the letter read.

“We write in solidarity with Pratap Bhanu Mehta, and to reaffirm the importance of the values that he has always practised. In political life, these are free argument, tolerance, and a democratic spirit of equal citizenship.”

“In the university, there is free inquiry, candour, and rigorous distinction between the demands of intellectual honesty and the pressure of politicians, funders, or ideological animus. These values come under assault whenever a scholar is punished for the content of public speech. When that speech is in defense of precisely these values, the assault is especially shameful,” it stated.

The signatories to the letter include Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean at UC Berkeley School of Law; Rogers Smith, Christopher H Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania; Milan Vaishnav of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Kate O’Regan, Professor of Human Rights Law at Oxford University. 

Protest on campus, faculty support

Mehta’s colleague Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic advisor to the Modi government, also resigned Thursday from Ashoka University’s faculty.

Coming out in support of Mehta, Subramanian called his colleague’s exit “ominously disturbing” for academic freedom.

In the wake of Mehta’s resignation, Ashoka University students had protested on campus Thursday seeking his reinstatement.

The faculty has also extended support to the call, seeking clarity on appointment and dismissal protocols.

Two more faculty members are reportedly on the verge of quitting.

(Edited by Debalina Dey)


Also read: My writing is perceived to carry risks for Ashoka University: PB Mehta in resignation letter


 

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14 COMMENTS

  1. In an environment whare democratic institutions have been bent to suit the political dispensation, what are the people to do, if not protest.

    The resignation of Mr Pratap Bhanu and many others of his ilk, is extremely disappointing and doesn’t sugur well for a democracy.

  2. To be able to manage yourself, you have to ask, what are my values? This is not about ethics of which the rules are the same for everybody. Values will differ – over which you can’t put a template to decide good or bad. The variables in each case are too many and very different.
    Organisations like people have values – can’t sit in judgement about the quality, in a democratic society where one is free to choose. To be effective, a person’s values must be compatible with the organisation’s values; not the same but at least compatible. Else she will not produce results giving rise to frustration. It is then better for the person to leave without rancour and much ado about nothing. Throwing stones from the outside does not exude quality and exhibits weakness in character.
    Tail piece: It is not for either parties to decide whose value system is to be valued more. Each will have its own place and people are free to choose – is that not democracy?

  3. Imandar loggon ka shayad abh samay janta ko ja kahen sarkaron ko bilkul theek nahi lagtah kyonjo SACHAI KI SOCH SAMAY KI PUKAR NAHI HAI JI OR HUM BHI SACHAI KE MARE HUA HAIN JI.

  4. Democracy is represented by rights of its PEOPLE and their keeper, THE CONSTITUTION.
    MODI has wilfully targeted the people by exploiting the saleable amongst them. NEXT SHALL BE TBE CONSTITUTION.
    Are we actually expecting GENERAL ELECTIONS in 2024 ?

  5. Mehta have been talking about his minds and opinions for a long time. Did anybody stopped him by doing so? He is working with ashoka, receiving salary and as such is bound by rules set by the promoters. If it effects their credibility or development, they have every reason to tell him not to do. He did not like it and quit. What is the halla balla about it. Where is the freedom of speech comes from? Why Rangarajan intervene on this or everything and offer his comments.

  6. Shameless muscle flexing by the liberal-secular cabal. In defence of a dear member of the cabal.

  7. (corrected – please ignore earlier post)
    Experts in one area (say economy) are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. Experts and people like academics (especially alien), are not responsible for execution resulting in the perception of a problem an integral part of a preconceived idea for them. The best architectural designer can’t always make a flawless structure. Structural engineer, geologist, sourcing engineer, electrical engineer, plumbing expert et al with niche expertise, have to work together with the designer in the execution to build the structure. Only when this is done the designer realises that many of his ideas were a non-starter in the first place.
    Is it necessary to be always critical of Governments to be an intellectual, academic or an expert? Is that why the experts and intellectuals “recognized” by the media are those critical of Government policies? Does the media mean that Governments do not employ experts, expert opinions etc. Airing 0pinions without responsibility always seems appealing, without pain. In this case , that their views appear in the mainstream media in India is enough to call their bluff about free speech in India. Do we call this hypocricy?
    Tail piece: Vision (media, academics & experts) without execution is just hallucination. Experts and academics work in silos. Ideas don’t move mountains. Bull bulldozers do.
    Disclaimer: Experts and academicians surely have put in a lot of work to acquire the expertise and are required in every field and have their place in society. The expertise thus achieved generates many ideas, not all of them good. Also execution is a different kettle of fish – an expert can’t ALWAYS foresee the hassles in concerted execution of different ideas. Every organ player in an orchestra, however good he be, have to follow the score and the conductor to produce a symphony.
    With due respect to all teachers.

  8. Expertise in one area (say economy) are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. Experts and people like academics (especially alien), are not responsible for execution resulting in the perception of a problem a preconceived idea for them. The best architectural designer can’t always make a flawless structure. Structural engineer, geologist, sourcing engineer, electrical engineer, plumbing expert et al with niche expertise, have to work together in the execution to build the structure. Only when this is done the designer realises that many of his ideas were a non-starter in the first place.
    Is it necessary to be always critical of Governments to be an intellectual, academic or an expert? Is that why the experts and intellectuals “recognized” by the media are those critical of Government policies? Does the media mean that Governments do not employ experts, expert opinions etc. without responsibility always seems appealing, without pain. That their views appear in the mainstream media in India is enough to call their bluff.
    Tail piece: Vision (media & experts) without execution is just hallucination. Experts and academics work in silos. Ideas don’t move mountains. Bull bulldozers do.
    Disclaimer: Experts and academicians surely they have put in a lot of work to acquire the expertise and are required in every field. The expertise thus achieved generates many ideas. But then execution is a different kettle of fish – an expert can’t ALWAYS foresee the hassles in concerted execution. Every organ player in an orchestra, however good he be, have to follow the score and the conductor to produce a symphony. With due respect to all teachers.

  9. Universities are for academic pursuits. If a person wants to BE a political mouth -piece of any ruling or opposition party why not join THAT party in straight way ? Who stops him to join a party which is soon going have 23 vacancies. Only he has TO keep in mind that he will NEVER ASPIRE to be the President or VP , as these posts are RESERVED FOR person born in a particular FAMILY. However he can found himself decorated with post like Secretary of various brands and sub-brands . He can be made regional/ organisation controller for some states where party still exists.

  10. RSS mindset is to gratefully accept recognition not available of its existence, good or bad. Ashoka merely follows the footstep.

  11. The western humanities and social studies departments are filled with venomous vipers who know that they have nothing useful to contribute to the society. They have massive inferiority complex when they compare themselves to their counterparts in the STEM fields; the latter actually have brilliant minds and make real contributions to the society – and the society respects them and rewards them for their contributions. That is the root cause of the heartburn that these humanities types feel and take it out on the society. The humanities types like PBM and those who signed a letter supporting him are mere pompous windbags. There are many more such vipers inhabiting the humanities/social studies departments of indian universities that deserve to be sidelined and made irrelevant.

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