Prof Panini was called ‘a person of disputed identity’ on an official order but Jharkhand university is now keen to duck responsibility for that labelling
Vice-chancellor Nand Kumar Yadav of Central University of Jharkhand – who earlier this week suspended a faculty member for inviting a retired JNU professor, N.M. Panini, to campus – now says his description of the professor as a “mentor to anti-nationals” was actually the work of “unknown miscreants”.
If that sounds a bit like the old student alibi, ‘The dog ate my homework’, consider this: the comments on Panini that the VC is referring to were actually part of an official office order that suspended the faculty member, associate professor Shreya Bhattacharji.
On Thursday, following recommendations from a fact-finding committee, the vice-chancellor revoked the suspension of Bhattacharji. Perhaps due to the widespread criticism the suspension and cancellation of Panini’s invitation have faced, Nand Kumar Yadav also wrote an apology letter to Panini.
The letter and Panini’s response were posted on Panini’s Facebook page and make for hilarious reading – until one realises the joke is on the state of higher educational in India.
First the VC’s letter, reproduced below verbatim:
“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the Central University of Jharkhand on the issue whatever came into [sic] the public domain in recent days,” the VC’s letter said. “The University always keenly welcomes the distinguished and eminent academicians like you to share their views with our students. Furthermore, whatsoever came into the public domain about you in the name of the University were not the views of the University but were the views of the unknown miscreants. Keeping in view the same and in apprehension of the same the circumstances compelled to cancel your visit to avoid any mishappenings related to your security etc.”
Panini replied to this letter, questioning the blame being placed on “miscreants” when the suspension order calling him “a person of disputed identity” was signed by none other than the university registrar.
“I thank you for your latest emailed message extending your ‘sincerest’ apologies ‘on the issue of whatever came in the public domain in recent days’. I thank you for clarifying that whatsoever came in the public domain about me in the name of the university were the views of ‘miscreants’ as you put it. So please let me know whether you have now withdrawn the [relevant] order numbers … issued by Professor R. K. Dey, Registrar (i/c) in which references, alleged or otherwise, to my being a ‘mentor’ of students involved in anti national activities and to my being ‘a person of disputed integrity’ were made,” Panini’s response says.
Panini also wants an official deletion of the previous orders that mention him.
“In all fairness, you should get your Registrar to issue a new order that deletes adverse references that have been mentioned in the two documents I have mentioned above. In any case, a new order will become necessary in view of what you have mentioned in your previous message. This is the only way I can be sure that the message that I have received from you has not been tampered with by ‘miscreants’ once again,” he says sarcastically.
“I emphatically urge you to issue a classificatory press statement. This will be the appropriate course of action. I anxiously await your response so that I can advice my lawyer to refrain from proceeding legally on the matter.”
Shreya Bhattacharji, associate professor at CJU, had invited Panini to speak at an event commemorating Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary. However, Yadav then cancelled the event, and Bhattacharji was served a suspension order. According to the Indian Express, the suspension order said, inter alia:
“Prof Panini is considered as mentor of the group of students of JNU, who were involved in anti-national activities in JNU campus recently. As such, the invitation to Prof Panini by Dr Shreya Bhattacharji, without examining his credentials, led to widespread criticism from different quarters of the society as a result of which not only the image of the University was tarnished as well as the reputation of the Vice-Chancellor was put on stake.”
According to Panini, the VC had also extended an invitation to him, but later said the event was cancelled.