Monday, 30th October 2017

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JNU probe

Based on an activist’s complaint that a professor had given a speech supporting Maoists in Bastar

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 23.10.18, 3:01 AM
  • Updated 23.10.18, 3:01 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Jawaharlal Nehru University Picture by Prem Singh

Jawaharlal Nehru University’s executive council on Monday ordered a probe into a Chhattisgarh-based activist’s recent complaint that a professor from the varsity had given a speech supporting Maoists in Bastar in 2016.

The complainant also cited a 2016 letter from Chhattisgarh police accusing the teacher of murdering a tribal man.

The professor, historian Archana Prasad of the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, was part of a delegation, including Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, that visited Bastar in May 2016 and published a report on the problems faced by citizens caught in the conflict between security forces and Maoist insurgents.

The delegation also included Vineet Tiwari of the CPI’s Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, and the CPM’s Chhattisgarh secretary, Sanjay Parate.

The agenda of the executive council’s Monday meeting included a proposal to consider the two letters. One was from B.L. Saraswat, president of the Bastar Lok Chetna Shiksha Evam Sahitya Manch, on August 3 this year that accuses the three “Maoist supporter professors” and Parate of making a “speech against police and in support of Maoists” in Kumakoleng on May 14, 2016.

The second was the letter from the Bastar SP on May 25, 2016, informing JNU of the murder complaint against Prasad and others.

Rector Chintamani Mahapatra told The Telegraph: “Whenever a complaint like this is made against a faculty member, the university inquires into what has happened. The vice-chancellor will form a committee for this.”

On November 15, 2016, the Chhattisgarh government had told the Supreme Court it would not arrest or investigate the accused in connection with the FIR accusing them of murdering Shamnath Baghel after his wife Vimla said she had never named them.

The court ordered the state to give four weeks’ notice if it wished to carry out any probe against them in the future, and Bastar’s IGP S.R.P. Kalluri was soon transferred out, after the Opposition objected to his remarks on human rights activists.

Prasad, who is not a member of the council, said: “When I heard that some complaint from Chhattisgarh is to be discussed by the EC, I communicated to the VC and the registrar that the SC has given its order in the case two years ago and appealed to the VC not to put it on the (EC) agenda. I have not once been asked for an explanation from JNU in the last two years.”

Prasad has published several books and been on committees of central ministries.

A council member said: “Elected teacher representatives to the EC pointed out that it is beyond a university’s capacity or jurisdiction to conduct a probe of this nature on a complaint of a non-academic nature from some other state. A university can cooperate with police, if they request, but in this case — after the SC has decided the matter — how can JNU intervene? I do not recall any such probe being done by JNU.… The administration may use this to deny the teacher leave while the probe is pending.”

The JNU Teachers’ Association said in a statement: “The administration also became a willing party in the harassment of a teacher based on the complaint of a private party, in effective defiance of a court order.”