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JU awaits PhD probe prod

Calcutta, July 14: Jadavpur University today said it was prepared to investigate the doctorate claim of Pabitra Sarkar, who taught linguistics at JU for years, only if it was directed either by the government or the high court or the University Grants Commission or the JU Court, a body equivalent to the Senate of Calcutta University.

“We are aware of the media reports on Sarkar’s doctorate controversy,” said registrar Rajat Bandopadhyay.

“But a university like ours cannot take a line of action solely on the basis of media reports. We can initiate an inquiry only when one of the four institutions tells us to launch an investigation of the circumstances that surround Sarkar’s doctoral degree. After all, he had been selected by a competent committee. We cannot be seen as dishonouring its decision.”

The comments came in the wake of growing demand from a large section of academicians for a probe by JU, where Sarkar spent the bulk of his chequered teaching career.

JU has been under pressure with the every passing day following the disclosure that it appointed Sarkar in 1977 to the post of reader without asking him to produce, according to norms, a valid document in support of his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago.

“A selection committee made up of learned people, all household names, had picked Sarkar,” Bandopadhyay said.

Jyotirmoy Ghosh, one of the two surviving members of the 1977 selection panel, dropped a bombshell during the day when he said there had been several deserving candidates — “one of them outstanding, Sankha Ghosh” — for the post,but Sarkar had been picked because of his “doctoral degree”.

“It is not the duty of a panel of experts to crosscheck a candidate’s credentials or supporting papers. It is a clerical task for which a separate department exists,” Ghosh added.

Pressure mounted from elsewhere, too, with an anti-CPM lobby, flaunting the report in The Telegraph that the University of Chicago had not confirmed the awarding of a PhD in linguistics to Sarkar, demanding an inquiry as well as action against Sarkar for “suppression of truth”.

Sushil Mukherjee, former vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, Sunanda Sanyal, a former English teacher of CU, Tarun Naskar, teacher of JU, and other members of the Save Education Committee said in Calcutta they believed Sarkar had not been awarded a doctoral degree.

“We have checked with a number of authentic sources who express doubts whether Sarkar had completed his thesis,” they said at a news conference.

Both the government and the CPM leadership chose to soft-pedal the issue.

“The Sarkar issue is being handled directly by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee though I admit, JU is controlled by my department,” said CPM state secretary Anil Biswas. “It’s an academic issue, please do not politicise it,” he added.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee wrote to Governor Viren J. Shah, asking him to initiate a probe in his capacity as chancellor of all universities in Bengal.

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