The Human Resource Development Ministry has been accused of “crushing dissent” for asking Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy to explain his remarks criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nandita Narain, former president of the Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Association, called the ministry’s actions “harassment of the worst kind”, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.

During a panel discussion on Al Jazeera news channel in July, Chenoy had criticised Modi for not visiting Palestine while he was in Israel. The professor had also referred to the 2002 riots in Gujarat as genocide and called the Bharatiya Janata Party anti-Muslim.

“University teachers are expected to have freedom to express criticism of government policies,” Narain said. “Nowhere do our service rules prohibit expressing our opinion that may be critical of the government. Universities are places where people are trained to look at things critically. This is part of crushing dissent.”

On July 6, Satya Pal Singh – a BJP parliamentarian and former police officer who is now the minister of state in the Human Resource Development Ministry – had complained about Chenoy’s remarks to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, calling them “anti-national”. Kumar had forwarded the complaint to the HRD Ministry, which then sent it to JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar. After a reminder from the ministry, Pramod Kumar on Monday asked Chenoy to explain his comments on Modi.