Suspending Free Speech: The Curious Case of Prof. Shreya Bhattacharya

Ananya S. Guha

suspension letter Prof. Shreya Bhattcharji
Suspension Letter by the University to Prof. Shreya Bhattcharji

Well now you can’t speak, you can’t even invite speakers to your university. You’ll be rewarded or awarded with a suspension letter. Suspending a teacher has procedures, doesn’t it? There is I think something called charge sheeting, though I’m very slow with the rules. But in India we have scant respect for rules. We flout them when it doesn’t suit us and make them when we target individuals whom we do not like, or their faces or their guts. And in doing so authorities of establishments ( read here Universities) have of course their avowed ‘ informers ‘ acolytes, who should be spending more time in working or teaching. For decades now the higher education scene has witnessed appalling breakdown of the culture of knowledge seeking, good and creative teaching. And when who tries to break down such poor standards is targeted as ‘ unholy ‘ and then the ganging up starts. Like bad money drives out good money, bad teachers and academics are driving out good ones, ones who want change. But why is there this inveterate resistance to change among teachers? Inviting a former Professor meant to listen to his views on the crisis in universities now? We have got to accept it, there is a crisis, students whether in JNU or elsewhere have found their voice and will not take things lying down. Moreover they are getting more involved in social issues, want a total change in any sectarian ethos, do not want warped reading of history or of the Constitution of the country. Now the issue is no longer of shouting anti Indian slogans, the issue is that of combating vicious forces out to strangle the political and societal scenes. The issue is that of upholding a sacrosanct history of the country, reading its argumentative spirit, and relating them to present issues.

The incident of suspension of a teacher in the Central Jharkhand University is not only sad and depressing, it is also an example of policing and authoritarianism by university powers. At times Vice Chancellors believe they can do whatever they want, appoint whomsoever they want and they run administration with their coteries. This coterie system in universities must be blasted. It is highly corrupt, plutocratic and venal. It is a caste system infusing fear into others. The public must know the exact guilt of Prof. Shreya Bhattacharya, and what was her wrong doing Where are the University rules and regulations, ordinances, which sometimes teachers quote and wrongly quote at the drop of a hat? I think all these must be made transparent and the public as well as academics must know what exactly was the nature of her supposed malfeasance. Was it because that ostracised university has come into the picture? What a shame!

 

Ananya S Guha lives in Shillong where he has been raised. He has over thirty four years of teaching and administrative experience. He has seven collections of poetry in English and his poems have been widely anthologized and published both in India and abroad.