In a span of two days, two of India’s prominent scholars, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian, have tendered their resignations from Ashoka University. The resignation of two eminent and respected public intellectuals have come as a shock and hint that all is not well within the highly “liberal” space like Ashoka University.
Noted scholar and political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned as professor from Ashoka University on Tuesday, less than two years after he stepped down from the post of Vice-Chancellor.
Mehta is a staunch critic of the current government, and constantly questions its actions in his public appearances and through his writings.
The details of Mehta’s resignation are still unknown, with him offering no comments when asked if it had anything to do with his criticism of the current government.
However, a day after, economist Arvind Subramanian also resigned as a professor in the Department of Economics, citing the circumstances behind Mehta’s resignation as his reason.
Subramanian is the former Chief Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister of India. He had joined Ashoka University in July last year and is the founding director of the Ashoka Centre for Economic Policy.
In his resignation letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Malabika Sarkar, he wrote that his resignation is to take effect at the end of this academic year. Referring to Mehta’s resignation, he wrote, “…But that someone of such integrity and eminence, who embodied the vision underlying Ashoka, felt compelled to leave is troubling. That even Ashoka—with its private status and backing by private capital—can no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing.”
“Above all, that the University’s commitment to fight for and sustain the Ashoka vision is now open to question makes it difficult for me to continue being part of Ashoka,” he further wrote.
Many opine that it is a part of a worrying trend of organizations discouraging dissent to prevent backlash from the ruling dispensation. Some even suggest that this is but a part of the government’s ongoing clampdown on academics and intellectualism.