New Delhi: As many as 261 academics have written to the president of India, Draupadi Murmu, pleading for her intervention in what they believe is the illegal termination of a Visva-Bharati University professor.
The Wire has reported how the Bengal university, founded by poet Rabindranath Tagore, has been witnessing protests from the teaching and student community since late last year, when the authorities issued a termination notice to Visva Bharati University Faculty Association president and professor of economics, Sudipta Bhattacharya.
Among those who have written to President Murmu are Noam Chomsky, Utsa Patnaik, Partha Chatterjee, Uma Chakravarti, Amit Bhaduri, Amiya Bagchi, Prabhat Patnaik, Harbans Mukhia, Sunanda Sen, Sabuj Kali Sen, Jayati Ghosh, Nivedita Menon and many others.
Murmu, as president, is the chancellor of the central university.
The letter is also critical of VBU Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, under whom student bodies have been particularly disgruntled on various administrative issues.
“This termination order is indicative of how the norms, laws and procedures governing Visva-Bharati are being violated under the leadership of its current Vice-Chancellor,” the letter notes.
Bhattacharya had earlier told The Hindu that he has been singled out and was being victimised for speaking out against various irregularities at the university ever since Chakraborty became the Vice-Chancellor.
The letter observes that the misconducts that Bhattacharya is accused of are unspecific in nature and that it is “clear that no proper inquiry was conducted by the university” before initiating the disciplinary action against the professor. There was no show cause notice, the signatories say, and this points to a violation of standard procedure which reflects a degree of malice.
The full letter is below.
The Hon’ble President of India,
Paridarsaka (Visitor) of Visva-Bharati
New Delhi – 110 004
Subject: Plea for intervention in the illegal termination of Professor Sudipta Bhattacharya from service at Visva-Bharati, West Bengal
Hon’ble Smt. Droupadi Murmu,
We, the undersigned members of the academic community express our deep concern and alarm at the brazenly illegal order served by the Acting Registrar of Visva-Bharati to Professor Sudipta Bhattacharya, who teaches at the university’s economics department and is currently the President of the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association.
The letter directed by the Vice-Chancellor addressed to Professor Bhattacharya containing a “Communication of the order of proposed discontinuation of service/contract with Visva-Bharati” dated 22.12.2022 states that the Executive Council of the university has “resolved to discontinue your service/contract with Visva-Bharati” in a meeting held on 14.12.2022.
Thereafter, a series of “misconducts” have been listed without specifying either the dates and other details of the incidents or the specific actions for which Professor Bhattacharya has been indicted. It is clear that no proper inquiry was conducted by the university authorities before initiating draconian disciplinary action against a university professor and office-bearer of the faculty association. Neither has there been a show cause notice issued to the professor concerned. These violations of standard procedure point towards malice and arbitrariness.
The faculty member has been asked to submit his “representation, if any, against the proposed discontinuation of your service/contract within 15 (fifteen) days” pending which the decision will be finalised by the competent authority. However, the competent authority has already made up its mind on the professor’s culpability and decided upon his termination from services. This goes against the principles of natural justice.
This termination order is indicative of how the norms, laws and procedures governing Visva-Bharati are being violated under the leadership of its current Vice-Chancellor. As the Visitor of Visva-Bharati and the custodian of the statutes and ordinances of the university, we urge you to kindly intervene in this matter to ensure that the this institute of national importance that was founded by Rabindranath Tagore continues to foster the spirit of ‘where the mind is without fear’ instead of descending into a saga of vendetta, intimidation and highhandedness by its authorities.
Thanking you for your kind consideration.