By Medha Patkar and Prafulla Samantara*
Dr Sandeep Pandey – an engineer, distinguished academic, grassroots activist, peace crusader and a highly esteemed member of the contemporary Indian milieu – has been unceremoniously sacked from his post as a guest faculty in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Uttar Pradesh. People’s Movements from all across India are extremely angry as well as hurt at this conspiratorial manoeuvre in academic institutions that has become common place after BJP-led coalition government has come to power.
The progressive professor of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering Department has always been active in both classrooms and in the field as a champion of human rights. The decision to terminate his contract was taken at the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting and it reeks of the agenda of the NDA government that is keen to silence all voices of opposition from public spaces in India.
The VC of BHU, who was made the Chairman of IIT BoG by Human Resources Department (HRD) Ministry, Government of India (GoI), bypassing the panel of five names recommended by a resolution of BoG, Prof. GC Tripathi, and Dean of Faculty Affairs, IIT, BHU, Prof Dhananjay Pandey, both gentlemen associated with the RSS, primarily forced the decision. The charges against Dr Pandey is that he is a naxalite, showed a banned documentary on the Nirbhaya case and is involved in anti-national activities.
Dr Pandey has co-founded a people’s group called Asha for Education in 1991, a non profit organisation dedicated to bring change in India by focusing on basic education in the belief that education is a critical requisite for socio-economic change. In 2002, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. In 2005, he led an Indo-Pak peace march from New Delhi to Multan. In the communal torn Uttar Pradesh, he has worked relentlessly to propagate peace and harmony between communities.
He has also been a founding member of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), been its national convener for nearly a decade and now is Adviser to NAPM Convening Team. In the recent past, he sat on an indefinite fast for implementation of the Right to Education in the City Montessori School and other private schools that refused to extend the benefits of the RTE Act to many underprivileged children.
The decision taken by IIT BHU is not only tragic but also shows the social immaturity of right-wing sympathisers who want to crush dissent at all costs. Even if it means raising a whole new generation of young Indians without the guidance of progressive thinkers and dynamic individuals like Dr Pandey. After FTII stir, scrapping of Non-Net fellowship, and many others tinkering with educational institutes, this is also in line with their agenda of blatantly obliterating the voices of rational and progressive leaders bringing wider social change in our society.
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) challenges the decision of IIT-BHU and demands an explanation on the behalf of people of India for this shameful act of removing a highly academically competent individual from an academic post.
Statement by Dr Sandeep Pandey
My contract at IIT BHU, Varanasi as a visiting faculty has prematurely ended after teaching there for 2.5 years due to a decision of Board of Governors. In a recent Board meeting the Vice Chancellor of BHU, who was made the Chairman of IIT BoG by Minister of HRD, GoI, bypassing the panel of five names recommended by a resolution of BoG, Prof. G.C. Tripathi, and Dean of Faculty Affairs, IIT, BHU, Prof. Dhananjay Pandey, both gentlemen associated with RSS, primarily forced the decision. The charges against me are that I’m a naxalite, showed a banned documentary on Nirbhaya case and am involved in anti-national activities.
I wish to clarify that I’m not a naxalite. The ideology that I would consider myself closest to is Gandhian. But I do identify with the causes taken up by naxalites even though I may not agree with their methods. I also think that it requires a lot of courage and sacrifice to be a naxalite and I certainly don’t have that kind of resolve.
The banned documentary on Nirbhaya made by BBC was to be screened in my Development Studies class during the even semester of academic year 2014-15 but the decision was withdrawn after intervention of Chief Proctor of BHU and S.O. of Lanka Police Station just before the class. However, a discussion on the issue of violence against women in our society was conducted after screening a different documentary.
I don’t believe in the idea of a nation or national boundaries, which I think are responsible for artificial divisions among human beings similar to ones on the basis of caste or religion. Hence I cannot be anti or pro-nation. I am pro-people. I’m not a nationalist but is a Universalist.
I’ve no regrets as the decision to terminate my contract has not been taken based on my academic performance but it is because of my political views and activities. I’ve enjoyed my stay at IIT, BHU and wish the Institute and the University well.
*National Alliance of People’s Movements