Kerala professor suspended for criticizing right-wing politics: a targeted attack?
Assistant professor Gilbert Sebastian was suspended by the Central University of Kerala for calling the SSR proto-fascist during one of its conferences.
Support is pouring in for Gilbert Sebastian, a faculty member at the Central University of Kerala who was suspended for calling Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s parent organization, proto-fascist at one of its lectures. online about “ fascism and nazism ”. From political leaders in Congress and CPI (M) to student organizations, many have criticized the University’s decision, calling it a blatant violation of academic freedom. In the meantime, it has also emerged that the assistant professor has been targeted several times in the past by the university.
It was on May 17 that Gilbert Sebastian, assistant professor in the Department of International Relations and Politics, was suspended by Vice-Chancellor H Venkateshwarlu. The university action follows a complaint filed by Vinod Karuvarakund, member of the national education monitoring committee within the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development and another complaint from the ABVP, the student branch of RSS. The complaint alleged that Gilbert “was indoctrinating the students by spitting hatred and poison against the Narendra Modi government”.
However, in the online course organized on April 19, while discussing various fascist regimes in international politics, the assistant professor posed a question to the students – how is India under Narendra Modi? The discussion focused on the theme “Fascism and Nazism”, part of the program of the study “Conflict and theories in political science”. The RSS was then mentioned as a proto-fascist organization – that is, a political movement tending towards fascism. The incident snowballed into controversy after the presentation and the audio clip of the class, which were shared with the students, were leaked.
“ Gilbert has been targeted before ”
Meanwhile, a source close to the university revealed that Gilbert Sebastian also faced the wrath of the university administration. The assistant professor who had worked at the institution since 2015 even had two of his salary increases withheld until retirement, for expressing support for the dismissal of another faculty member at the university, according to the source. .
“In another case, he received a show cause notice for participating in a rally against the massacre of the Adivasis in the districts of Maharashtra a few years ago. For four years he was also the board member of the CUK Teachers Association, which spoke out against the university’s right-wing teachers’ association. He had had a troubled race with some top right-wing officials in the university administration, ”the source said.
A statement from the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) also gives a clue to the alleged death threat that Gilbert from the university administration has faced in the past. “The hasty decision to suspend Dr Gilbert, one of those few academics who have both the theoretical insight and the moral integrity to fight the fascist regime, comes from a university that has failed to take measures or even investigated complaints against Sangh supporters like Dr Jayaprasad (associated with Bharatiya Vichara Kendram and the pro vice-chancellor), who threatened his colleagues with murder. The university administration’s commitment to right-wing politics and policies comes as no surprise and is just a continuation of its past actions, ”the ASA statement said.
Notably, the administration of the Central University of Kerala had in the past also drawn harsh criticism for its drastic actions against students and teachers, including expulsions and suspensions. Notably, most of the victims who have been the target of such actions, have raised their voices against the right in the country and the Union government led by the BJP.
A student in the Department of International Relations and Political Science was expelled from the university in 2019 for writing an article on Facebook following the terrorist attack in Pulwama. While the Andhra native was originally booked for sedition by police, the case was later closed after the police came to the conclusion that this did not warrant a case of sedition. Earlier in 2018, a faculty member in the Department of English and Comparative Literature was suspended for criticizing the university’s decision against a Dalit scholar.
Support is pouring in
Congressman and MP Shashi Tharoor took to social media to urge people to speak out against Gilbert Sebastian’s suspension. “Talk about him, don’t shut him up!” In fact, I had already expressed my concern about the dwindling space for dissent on our campuses during the #NationalEducationPolicy discussion. I echo that concern today regarding the Sebastian case, ”Tharoor said in a Facebook post.
Congressman Rajmohan Unnithan wrote a letter to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal about the suspension of the assistant professor, calling the decision a “witch hunt”. “Proto-fascism is a technical term and he used it in his class to describe and elaborate certain political situations. Such a witch hunt is a transgression of the academic freedom of the university professor, ”Rajmohan Unnithan wrote in the letter, requesting the minister’s intervention to withdraw the disciplinary measure against him.
IPC (M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Dr V Sivadasan also expressed solidarity with the suspended assistant professor. The Kerala Government Teachers Association, in a statement, called the move against Gilbert undemocratic.
Student associations such as the Federation of Students of India (SFI), the student wing of CPI (M); The Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) criticized the university’s action and called for the suspension to be revoked.
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