New Delhi: Historian and professor emerita Romila Thapar has refused to send her CV to Jawaharlal Nehru University and has instead, written a letter to the administration explaining the status of her position, according to a report in The Hindu.
The JNU registrar Pramod Kumar had earlier, in a letter to Thapar on July 12, said that her CV was needed so that a committee appointed by the university could “assess [her] work and decide on [her] continuation as Professor Emeritus.” According to a report in the Telegraph, several professors were taken aback by this stipulation claimed that emeritus professors, posts that are usually designated for life, have never been asked to submit their CVs before.
Speaking to The Hindu, Thapar conveyed her intention to not send her CV. “They have contradicted themselves in the letter they sent to me. When the status was originally conferred, it was stated that this was a lifetime honour,” she said and added that the administration was negating what they had originally written. “They have changed the rules and are applying them retrospectively,” she said.
Thapar also said that she had sent a letter to the university explaining what the position of professor emeritus meant and that the position was an honour given on the basis of work already accomplished. “How can it be based on future expectation?” she asked. She added that she had not received any response from the university so far.
In response to the controversy, the Jawaharlal Nehru University issued a press release on September 4, in which it claimed that there was “a motive to defame administrative reforms” from “news reports and social media opinions” and that “no single emeritus professor has been targeted”.
The release also said that the aim was to regulate the “process of appointments and continuation of the positions of Emeritus Professor in the University” and the “huge skew” in appointments of emeritus professors – of 21 emeritus professors, 17 were from social sciences and humanities and 4 from sciences.
Pointing out that since “many eminent faculty members who could have positively guided upcoming researchers” had “missed out in the past from being appointed”, it was decided that an age limit be instituted so that “justice is given to the deserving retired faculty members”.
Under these new regulations, the university claimed, emeritus professors who have attained the age of 75 were requested to submit their contributions and “letters were sent to all 12 emeritus professors who have attained the age of 75 to know their availability and willingness to participate in the academic activities of the University”
Thapar responded to the university’s justification by pointing out that the letter sent to her carried the subject line: ‘Assessment of past work of “Professor Emeritus” in Jawaharlal Nehru University for the Committee to decide on Continuation’
Addressing the charge that the university’s status as a centre of scholarship and research was increasingly being reduced, Thapar said that the developments in question were not accidental but deliberate.
“They don’t recognise that the university is a place where you think freely, where you do research, where you argue and debate ideas,” she said and added that the academic component of a university was more significant than the administration.
“It is the academics who protect and nurture the intellectual work of a university. That is why they are the more respected component,” she said.
Thapar, who taught at JNU between 1970 and 1991, was appointed to the post of professor emerita in 1993. Her work is considered essential for students of Indian history, and she has received a number of international awards including the Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress, meant as a lifetime achievement award for categories not covered by the Nobel Prize.
Thapar’s books include The Public Intellectual in India, The Past Before Us: Historical Traditions of Early North India, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations and numerous others.