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Friday , December 9 , 2011
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Harvard hits Swamy

Subramanian Swamy

Washington, Dec. 8: Subramanian Swamy’s elation over special CBI judge O.P. Saini’s decision to allow Swamy’s plea in his complaint against Union home minister P. Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum case has been severely pricked by Harvard University’s decision to bar the Janata Party president from teaching economics at the university next summer.

Ever since Swamy became an MP in 1974 and during his successful Lok Sabha campaign from Mumbai North East during the Emergency, his association with Harvard was a unique selling proposition that he carefully cultivated and exploited.

In barring him from teaching at Harvard for “hate speech” against Muslims, Swamy lost his oldest constituency which this week belittled his association with that centre of academic excellence.

In an email to Indo-Eurasian researchers in the US which was obtained by this correspondent yesterday, Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit and Director of Graduate Studies at Harvard’s Department of South Asian Studies, called Swamy “insidious,” ridiculed him as “head of the minuscule Janata Party in India” and implied that his academic credentials were of little worth today.

Witzel wrote that Swamy was “once — decades ago — Associate Professor of Economics at Harvard”.

At the heart of the censure by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences are two articles by Swamy, one in the DNA newspaper this year and another in The New Indian Express after the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai.

In these op-eds, he called for the disenfranchisement of non-Hindus who refuse to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry, and a ban on conversion from Hinduism to other religions, among other things.

The action against Swamy won immediate praise from one of Harvard’s best known academics of Indian origin, Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs.

Swamy’s rationale for disenfranchisement “is like saying Jewish Americans and African Americans should not be allowed to vote unless they acknowledge the supremacy of white Anglo Saxon Protestants,” Bose told the university newspaper The Harvard Crimson yesterday.

Bose is also the chairman of the mentor group formed to restore Calcutta’s Presidency to its former academic glory.

By a coincidence, the faculty’s vote to bar the Janata Party president was also reported for the newspaper by an Indian student, Radhika Jain. Past editors of the Crimson, America’s oldest college newspaper founded in 1873, include John F. Kennedy in 1940.

Swamy was to have taught two courses in economics next summer. He has regularly taught at Harvard long after he ceased to be on the university’s full-time staff continuously in the 1960s when he left to join the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

In tweets to his followers today, Swamy dismissed the university’s decision as “nothing serious.” He added that “non-economists at Harvard don’t like my views on how to protect India. I shall spend two more months in India” by not going to the US to teach.

In a television appearance, he described the faculty as a “kangaroo court” which unilaterally took its decision without consulting him or referring the offending articles for his explanation.

When Swamy’s op-ed appeared in the DNA, students at Harvard started a petition drive to prohibit him from teaching at the university. But at that time, Harvard stood by him citing his right to free speech.

Subsequently, some academics who took that position changed sides giving those who were campaigning against Swamy the upper hand. Sean D. Kelly, Chair of the Philosophy Department, was one of those who switched sides.

He told the university newspaper that “I was persuaded… that the views expressed in Dr. Swamy’s op-ed piece amounted to incitement of violence instead of protected political speech.”

Donald H. Pfister, Dean of the Summer School, similarly described Swamy’s views as “reprehensible”.

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