Pulapre Balakrishnan, the Ashoka University professor who quit following the resignation of Sabyasachi Das from the institute, on Saturday said that there was a grave error of judgement in the response to the attention received by the paper written by the economist.

“Academic freedom was violated in the response, and it would be unconscionable for me to remain,” Balakrishnan wrote in a letter to Ashoka University Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee and Board of Trustees Chairperson Pramath Raj Sinha.

Das resigned weeks after he published a research paper exploring the possibility of electoral manipulation in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Vice Chancellor Somak Raychaudhury had said that Das’ research was perceived by many as reflecting the views of the university.

Days after Das’ resignation, Balakrishnan, a professor in the economics department, also quit his post to protest the university’s action. Subsequently, five departments of the university also extended support to Das, warning that they will stop teaching unless the university reinstated the economist.

On Saturday, Balakrishnan hinted that the governing body at the university may have invited Das to return to the post that he had resigned from.

“News is that the governing body has decided to invite young Sabyasachi Das to return to the post from which he had resigned,” Balakrishnan claimed in his letter. “If this is correct, I appreciate the gesture. If not, I would request you as leaders of this community to consider doing just that.”

Balakrishnan said that in his eight-year tenure, Ashoka University did not place the “slightest restraint” on his thoughts in class or when he wrote in the media and marched on the streets for rights.

The professor added that the university even financially supported the publication of his book ‘India’s Economy from Nehru to Modi’ in its Hedgehog and Fox series.

“I did not have to meet anyone or even submit a proposal for this,” he said. “The publisher informs me that the project was approved the moment that it was proposed. The study is the culmination of my professional work thus far, and is a no-holds-barred look at the economic history of our country, including needless to mention, the present.”

He added: “For these opportunities afforded to me, I express my deepest gratitude to the foundation that you represent.”

Further, Balakrishnan said that he is aware of the challenges faced by Mukherjee and Sinha in “taking forward the mighty adventure that is Ashoka University”.

He added that being among the first faculty of the Indian Institutes of Management in Kozhikode and a private institution, Balakrishnan said he has seen “how terrifying it can be to deal with the government”.

Teaching will not be disrupted, says Economics department

The Economics department at Ashoka University on Saturday said that teaching at no point will be disrupted.

This comes two days after the department had threatened to stop teaching unless the university unconditionally offer Das, who had resigned earlier this week, his position back.

“Our demands in the open letter stand,” the department said. “The welfare of students is of utmost priority to the Economics department...While we carry on with our academic responsibilities, we reserve the right to protest in other ways.”

It further thanked all departments who issued statements in solidarity with the demands in the open letter.

“We have had meetings with the GB [general board] members and the VC [vice chancellor] and have been assured that a resolution is underway,” it added. “We hope that our combined efforts yield favourable outcomes.”