Education

World Scholars on Ashoka Controversy: A Dangerous Attack on Academic Freedom

The resignation of Pratap Bhanu Mehta from India's premier private university has rung alarm bells among scholars abroad. 'The university must be a home for fearless inquiry and criticism,' a statement endorsed by over a hundred leading academics on Friday says.

On Friday, a group of marquee names from universities in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia – including the British-Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah the Canadian Charles Taylor, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, the Cambridge political philosopher John Dunn and Oxford international relations scholar Rosemary Foot –  issued a statement of solidarity with Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who resigned as a professor of Ashok University in Haryana following a meeting with its trustees where it emerged that his writings were seen as a “political liability” for the private university and its promoters.

We are reproducing the full text of the statement and list of signatories below.

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A Dangerous Attack on Academic Freedom

An Open Letter to the Trustees, Administrators, and Faculty of Ashoka University

We are distressed to learn of Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation under political pressure from Ashoka University. A prominent critic of the current Indian government and defender of academic freedom, he had become a target for his writings.

It seems that Ashoka’s Trustees, who should have treated defending him as their institutional duty, instead all but forced his resignation. As he put it in his eloquent resignation letter:

“My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to carry risks for the university.”

We write in solidarity with Pratap Bhanu Mehta, and to reaffirm the importance of the values that he has always practiced. In political life, these are free argument, tolerance, and a democratic spirit of equal citizenship. In the university, they are free inquiry, candour, and a rigorous distinction between the demands of intellectual honesty and the pressure of politicians, funders, or ideological animus. These values come under assault whenever a scholar is punished for the content of public speech. When that speech is in defence of precisely these values, the assault is especially shameful.

The university must be a home for fearless inquiry and criticism. We support Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his practice of the highest values of intellectual inquiry and public life.

Signatories (organised alphabetically by last name):

Arash Abizadeh, Professor of Political Science, McGill University

Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

Sana Aiyar, Associate Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor; Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Sunil Amrith, Renu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History, Yale University

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law, New York University

David Armitage, Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History, Harvard University

Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Lawrie Balfour, James Hart Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

Aslı Ü. Bâli, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Etienne Balibar, Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University

Mukulika Banerji, Associate Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science

Amrita Basu, Paino Professor of Political Science and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies, Amherst College

Alyssa Battistoni, Environmental Fellow, Harvard University

Eric Beerbohm, Professor of Government; Chair, Committee on Degree in Social Studies, Harvard University

Charles Beitz, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Teresa M. Bejanl Associate Professor of Political Theory, University of Oxford

Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Departments of English and American Literature and Comparative Literature, Harvard University

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy; Professor, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University

Richard Bourke, Professor of the History of Political Thought, University of Cambridge

Corey L Brettschneider, Professor of Political Science, Brown University

Jedediah Britton-Purdy, William S. Beinecke Professor of Law, Columbia University

David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, Yale University

Christopher Brooke, University Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Cambridge

Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Chair, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Susan Buck-Morss, Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy, Gradudate Center, City University of New York

Jennifer Bussell, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Daniela Cammack, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Partha Chatterjee, Senior Research Scholar in Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley

Joan Cocks, Emerita Professor of Politics, Mount Holyoke College

Jean Cohen, Nell and Herbert M. Singer Professor of Contemporary Civilization in the Core Curriculum, Columbia University

Joshua Cohen, Distinguished Senior Fellow, University of California, Berkeley,  Apple University

Greg Conti, Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Adi Dasgupta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Merced

Sandipto Dasgupta, Assistant Professor of Politics, New School for Social Research

Rohit De, Associate Professor of History, Yale University

Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History, University of Oxford

Joshua Foa Dienstag, Professor of Law, Shapiro Family Chair Professor of Modern Political Theory, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Lisa Disch, Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Rosalind Dixon, Professor of Law, University of New South Wales, Co-President, International Society of Public Law

John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory, emeritus, University of Cambridge

Kevin Duong, Assistant Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

Cynthia Estlund, Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law, New York University

Kate Sullivan de Estrada, Associate Professor in the International Relations of South Asia, University of Oxford

Matthew Anthony Evangelista, President White Professor of History and Political Science, Cornell University

John A. Ferejohn, Samuel Tilden Professor of Law, New York University

Michaele Lynne Ferguson, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Colorado Boulder

Rosemary Foot, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

Katrina Forrester, Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies, Harvard University

Jason Frank, Robert J. Katz Chair of Government, Cornell University

Jill Frank, Professor of Government, Cornell University

Elizabeth Frazer, Fellow in Politics and University Lecturer in Politics, New College, University of Oxford

Mark W. Frazier, Professor of Politics, New School for Social Research

Leela Gandhi, John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English, Steering Committee, Center for Contemporary South Asia, Brown University

Sumit Ganguly, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations, Indiana University, Bloomington

Stephen Gardbaum, Stephen Yeazell Endowed Chair in Law, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Bryan Garsten, Professor of Political Science and Humanities, Yale University

David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology, Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford

Adom Getachew, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College, University of Chicago

Arunabh Ghosh, Associate Professor of History, Harvard University

Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Alex Gourevitch, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brown University

David Singh Grewal, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley

Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, Senior Lecturer in Twentieth-Century International History, King’s College London

Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Patrick Heller, Lyn Cross Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Bonnie H Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media (MCM) and Political Science, Brown University

Aziz Z. Huq, Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Andrew Hurrell, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, Balliol College, University of Oxford

Samuel Issacharoff, Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University

Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director, Knight First Amendment Institute, Columbia University

Maya Jasanoff, Coolidge Professor of History, Harvard University

Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Rob Jenkins, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

David C. Johnston, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Shruti Kapila, Fellow, Tutor and Director of Studies, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Milman Professor of American Studies, Cornell University

Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Interim Provost, Columbia University

Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University

Duncan Kelly, Professor of Political Thought and Intellectual History, University of Cambridge

Tarun Khaitan, Vice Dean, Faculty of Law, Professor of Public Law and Legal Theory & Hackney Fellow in Law, Wadham College, University of Oxford

Sharon R. Krause, William R. Kenan, Jr. University Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Brown University

Cécile Laborde FBA, Nuffield Chair in Political Theory, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Hélène Landemore, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University

Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics & Director, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Benjamin Lee, Professor of Anthropology and Philosophy, New School for Social Research

Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School

Steve Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University

Jacob T. Levy, Tomlisnon Professor of Political Theory, McGill University

Darryl Li, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences in the College, University of Chicago

Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Manjari Mahajan, Associate Professor of International Affairs & Starr Professor and Co-Director of the India China Institute, New School for Social Research

Charles S. Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Research Professor of History, Harvard University

Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia University

Anandi Mani, Professor of Behavioural Economics and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, Harvard University

Karuna Mantena, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Patchen Markell, Associate Professor of Government, Cornell University

Daniel Markovits, Guido Calabresi Professor of Law, Yale University

John P. McCormick, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Stephanie McCurry, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of U.S. History, Columbia University

Uday Singh Mehta, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Bernadette Meyler, Carl and Sheila Spaeth Professor of Law; Associate Dean for Research and Intellectual Life, Stanford University

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford; Vice-President-elect (Communications), British Academy

Tariq Modood, Director, Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, Bristol University

Glyn Morgan, Director, Moynihan Center of European Studies, Syracuse University

Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor of the Practice, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Samuel Moyn, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence, Professor of History, Yale University

Jan-Werner Mueller, Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Russell Muirhead, Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics, Chair, Department of Government, Dartmouth College

Rahul Mukherji, Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Heidelberg University

Rani D. Mullen, Associate Professor of Government, College of William and Mary

Kanta Murali, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Sankar Muthu, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Isaac Nakhimovsky, Associate Professor of History and Humanities, Yale University

Vipin Narang, Associate Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Eric Nelson, Robert M. Beren Professor of Government, Harvard University

Anne Norton Stacey and Henry Jackson President’s Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago

Andrew Ollett, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Kate O’Regan, Professor of Human Rights Law, Director, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford

Giulia Oskian, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University

Anthony Pagden, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Davide Panagia, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Alan Patten, Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Politics; Chair, Department of Politics, Princeton University

Susan Pedersen, Morris Professor of British History, Columbia University

Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government; Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University

Jennifer Pitts, Professor of Political Science and Social Thought, University of Chicago

Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University

Lant Pritchett, RISE Research Director, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Hari Ramesh, College Fellow in Social Studies, Harvard University

Aziz F. Rana, Richard and Lois Cole Professor of Law, Cornell University

Corey Robin, Associate Professor of Political Science, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Michael Rosen, Senator Joseph S. Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government, Harvard University

Nancy L. Rosenblum, Senator Joseph Clark Research Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government, emerita, Harvard University

Poulami Roychowdhury, Assistant Professor of Sociology, McGill University

Lucia Rubinelli, Junior Research Fellow in the History of Political Thought, Robinson College, University of Cambridge

Alan Ryan FBA, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory, University of Oxford

Michael J. Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, Harvard University

Shalini Satkunanandan, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis

Cheryl Saunders, Laureate Professor Emerita of Law, University of Melbourne

Thomas M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, Emeritus, Harvard University

Melissa Schwartzberg, Professor of Politics, New York University

Joan Wallach Scott, Professor Emerita, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Will Selinger, Lecturer in European History, 1700-1850, University College London

Akhil Sharma, Department of English, Duke University

Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy, Harvard University

Prerna Singh, Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Rogers Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Sophie Smith, Associate Professor of Political Theory and Tutorial Fellow, University College, University of Oxford

Carole Spary, Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Deputy Director, Asia Research Institute, University of Nottingham

Amia Srinivasan, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, University of Oxford

Paul Staniland, Associate Professor of Political Science; Faculty Chair, Committee on International Relations, University of Chicago

Hillel Steiner FBA, Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Manchester

Anna Stilz, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University

Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago

John Tasioulas, Director, Institute for Ethics in AI, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, McGill University

Tariq Thachil, Director, Center for Advanced Study of India; Madan Lal Sobti Associate Professor for the Study of Contemporary India, University of Pennsylvania

Louise Tillin, Reader in Politics, King’s College London

Richard Tuck, Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government, Harvard University

Maya Tudor, Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

James Tully, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Victoria

Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Emeritus, Harvard University

Nadia Urbinati, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory, Columbia University

Milan Vaishnav, Senior Fellow and Director, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ashutosh Varshney, Director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Brown University

Rajesh Veeraraghavan, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs, Georgetown University

Jeremy Waldron, University Professor, New York University

Patrick Weil, Research Professor, University of Paris1-Sorbonne

Stephen K. White, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, University of Virginia

Steven Wilkinson, Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Yale University

Melissa Williams, Professor of Political Science, Founding Director, Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

Elizabeth Wingrove, Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Jianying Zha, India China Institute, New School for Social Research