AAP backs suspended Mumbai whistleblower professor

Rocked by protests staged for two days now by students and professors, Mumbai University now finds the Aam Aadmi Party's activists rallying against it too, following the sudden suspension of a much-loved and respected professor.

 AAP backs suspended Mumbai whistleblower professor

A file photo of Mumbai University

On Saturday, University vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar suspended Professor Neeraj Hatekar, widely considered to be one of the best teachers on campus and a fellow of Cambridge University. The suspension order said the university's management council had taken serious note of Hatekar's "misguidance" to newspapers and his holding a press conference.

Hatekar, a whistleblower of sorts who has for a few years now taken on the university top brass by questioning various kinds of mismanagement and had also questioned the appointment of Welukar, was providing "false" information to newspapers, a violation of the varsity's code of conduct, the suspension notice said.

Hatekar is also convenor of the Joint Action Committee for Improvement of Higher Education in Maharashtra, a body that has protested the lack of transparency in the appointment of the vice-chancellor. Hatekar and others had earlier claimed that Welukar's academic and publication records did not meet the qualification criteria for the post.

Vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar told the Times of India that the law granted him the power to suspend Hatekar and that he had ordered a departmental inquiry against him.

Hatekar told TOI: "I do not believe that I have violated any code of conduct. I have taken a certain position which I think is good for the university and I am willing to pay whatever price that I have to for my position."

From Monday, dozens of students and teachers staged protests against the suspension. A signature campaign was initiated and the department of Economics also submitted a resolution to authorities defending Hatekar's right to free speech.

On December 12, Hatekar had held a press conference in which he had spoken about alleged mismanagement by Welukar.

Faculty members also organised a meeting and passed a resolution in which they called the suspension a "draconian decision".

"Being an autonomous department, the issue should have been put forward before the department's management and academic boards. The violation of the basic freedom of speech prompted us to pursue the matter. There is a due process that the university needs to follow, which includes memos or show cause notices. Instead, the University has called in an emergency and used the V-C directive to issue this order. Where is the emergency here?" the professors were quoted as saying.

On Wednesday, about 1,000 students were estimated to be skipping classes to participate in the protests on the campus. AAP leaders also arrived at the university's Kalina campus to show their support for the protesting students and for Hatekar.

"The Vice Chancellor has violated every rule by suspending Neeraj Hatekar -- it is not justified," said Mayank Gandhi, AAP leader in Mumbai.

Students also set up a Facebook page 'Save the Mumbai University' asking off-campus students to join the protest.

A member of the management council, which approved Hatekar’s suspension, was quoted in this report as saying: “The vice-chancellor put forth a proposal in the council for suspension, saying that Hatekar brought disrepute to the university. As members don’t dare to open their mouths fearing victimization no one opposed it.”

Historian and writer Ramchandra Guha has been tweeting his support for Hatekar too. On Tuesday, he posted these tweets:

 

 

Historian Aroon Tikekar, writing in the Times of India, also spoke out against the suspension.

"One really wonders why the authorities — Minister of Higher Education, the Department Secretary, the Management Council members and Chancellor — remain silent when every other day a new charge against Welukar gets published in the media. Charges of mismanagement, appointment goof-ups, examination irregularities and his wrong claims. Is the management council of the University of Mumbai full of servile yes-men?"

 

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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2014 17:57:09 IST