New Delhi: David Mumford, professor emeritus at Harvard University, and a winner of the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics has written to the Director of IIT-Madras expressing his shock at the de-recognition of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at the university and urging that open discussions must be allowed even on divisive issues.
“I have strong ideas about the importance of free speech and especially the importance of allowing students to discuss vital and difficult issues that confront society today. I have also become increasingly aware,” Prof. Mumford wrote, “during my nearly 50 years of visiting India, of the deep social struggles that quite possibly are coming to a head as India takes a central role in the world. For all these reasons, I was deeply shocked that the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle was “derecognised”.”
He also noted that he thought there were several similarities between the struggle of the African Americans in the United States and the Dalits in India, saying that for this reason he “personally take(s) Dr. Ambedkar as one of (his) heroes.”
Meanwhile support for the groups has come from various places, with protests being organized in Delhi and Mumbai. Students of several other universities, including IIT-Delhi, IIT-Mumbai and Jawaharlal Nehru University have come up with Ambedkar Periyar Study Circles in solidarity with the group in IIT-M.