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Indian university faces Kashmir fallout

NEW DELHI: Another Indian university is facing the consequences of ongoing violence in India-held Jammu and Kashmir as some of its students and staff members have urged the government in Srinagar to stop the assaults on civilians and hold plebiscite, the Indian Express said on Thursday.
It said senior members of the administrative staff at the Ashoka University have quit; an assistant professor is under pressure to leave and regulations have been revised to moderate all emails between alumni and students following the Kashmir petition.
The Ashoka University in Sonepat, which advertises itself as a world-class “pioneering liberal initiative” that encourages students “to think and to question”, is roiled in a fractious debate over curbs on freedom of speech on campus, the Express said.
The flashpoint came on a July 25 in a petition signed by 88 members of the university.
It was addressed to the J&K government and the Indian establishment, condemning the violence after militant Burhan Wani’s death and calling for de-militarisation of the state and the conduct of a plebiscite.
Signatories included students, alumni, two employees and one faculty member, according to the newspaper.
It said on October 7, the two employees, Saurav Goswami, deputy manager of academic affairs, and Adil Mushtaq Shah, programme manager of academic affairs, of the Young India Fellowship sent farewell emails to the current batch of 225 fellows. YIF is a one-year postgraduate diploma programme in liberal studies.
Although they quit on personal grounds, many on the campus say the management had made its “displeasure” known to them after the Kashmir petition went public.
“Until two weeks ago, they (Goswami and Shah) had no intention of leaving; they were busy planning guest (speaker) sessions for December. And then, out of the blue, we find emails announcing their resignation. It seems too much of a coincidence that the only two employees who signed the petition resign together and leave the university the same day,” said a student who did not wish to be identified.
The Express said that Rajendran Narayanan, assistant professor in the mathematics department, the only teacher who signed the petition, is also under pressure to quit by the end of this semester.
It quoted sources as saying the faculty council is trying to convince the administration to change its mind and let him stay.
“Meanwhile, the maths department has been informally asked to look for his replacement from next semester starting in January,” said a professor.
Before joining Ashoka, Narayanan worked as a visiting lecturer at the Cornell University. Shah, Goswami and Narayanan did not respond to questions emailed to them by the newspaper.
Highly regarded sociologist Andre Beteille is the chancellor of the university.

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