Political scientist Achin Vanaik has said that he stands by the remarks he made during a lecture on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict after the OP Jindal Global University in Haryana asked him to express regrets, reported The Hindu on Monday.
During the lecture at the private liberal arts university on November 1, Vanaik had drawn parallels between Zionism and Hindutva nationalism and questioned why one act of violence is labelled terrorism and others are not, according to leaked videos of the talk.
The former professor of political science at Delhi University also said that Zionism and Hindutva were different as the former was “not anti-Muslim” while the latter was “fundamentally and foundationally anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic”.
Vanaik told The Hindu that his words were taken out of context. “The idea that I am pro-terrorism is absolute nonsense,” he added. “I would want to clarify here that I do consider Hamas’s action as a terrorist action and criticise it.”
Vanaik’s clarification came after Dabiru Sridhar Patnaik, the registrar of the private liberal arts university, wrote a letter to the political scientist on November 13, stating that the statements made by him during his lecture were gratuitous and unrelated to the subject.
The letter described Vanaik’s characterisation of Zionism as “informative” but said the scholar’s comments on Hindutva were “unnecessary and objectionable”.
The registrar also objected to his remarks on suicide bombers, saying they came across as an “expression of sympathy towards them instead of unalloyed condemnation of violence and death caused by them”.
In his lecture, Vanaik said: “Suicide bombing expresses above all the determination not to kill much as the determination to die.”
Israel objects to lecture
Vanaik’s lecture had also attracted criticism from the Israeli embassy in India with its ambassador Naor Gilon writing a letter to the university’s Vice Chancellor C Raj Kumar.
In the letter dated November 3, Gilon expressed his “concern and extreme disappointment” and alleged that the lecture “delegitimised the state of Israel”. He said that while he believes in the importance of free speech and has encouraged productive debate and diverse opinions, “this [November 1] event was completely out of the realm of both”.
The ambassador said that it was “especially disappointing” that the university organised the lecture given the fact that it is the only institute in South Asia that has an Israel Studies Centre and has worked in close partnership with the embassy in the past.
“We have had good prior cooperation and also planned future endeavours,” he said.
The letter also said that the “lack of accuracy presented in this event was startling” as the university has excellent researchers specialising on Israel.
It alleged that maps were used at the event to “alter reality” and that historical facts were replaced with “inane subjective narrative”.
“This was the complete opposite of what education and academic research should stand for,” the letter said.
Vanaik, however, told Scroll that he had defined Israel “as a settler-colonial apartheid state”. “Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B’tselem – a human rights group in Israel– are among various bodies and individuals that publicly declare Israel to be an apartheid state,” he said.