A group of faculty members at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have protested against the decision to invite Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy to deliver a keynote address at the 9th annual MIT India Conference. In an online petition, they expressed concerns about Swamy’s “record of hate speech against religious minorities” and his recent remark about bipolar people.
Swamy is one of 18 speakers listed on the conference’s website. The event is scheduled to take place on February 16.
The petition on Change.org said Swamy’s statements are against the core of the institution’s values and principles. It was signed by faculty members Abhijit Banerjee, Arindam Dutta, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Mriganka Sur, Ruth Perry, Sally Haslanger, Elizabeth A Wood, Helen E Lee and Abha Sur. The petition had got 1,301 signatures by Saturday.
“In recent years, Dr Swamy has written to disenfranchise Muslims if they refuse to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry and recommended the removal of their sites of worship in order to ‘wipe out Islamic terror’,” the petition said. “He has spoken out against the decriminalisation of sex between consenting adults of the same gender insisting that, ‘It [homosexuality] is not a normal thing. We cannot celebrate it. It is against Hindutva [the essence of Hinduism]’.”
In January, Swamy had alleged that Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was bipolar and she physically abused people. He had claimed that people with bipolar disorder are unfit to serve in leadership positions.
The petition called on the institution to reconsider the decision. “Especially since it runs counter to the stated policy of the institution that affirms not only freedom of expression, but also ‘freedom from unreasonable and disruptive offence’,” the statement said.
The statement cited the decision by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University to not allow Swamy to teach courses in 2011. The petitioners quoted Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at the institution, as saying then, “Harvard had a moral responsibility not to affiliate itself with anyone who expressed hatred towards a minority group. We concur.”
Audrey Truschke, assistant professor of South Asian history, described Swamy as a racist, homophobic, women-hating and Muslim-hating fanatic. “It shows a distressing lack of international awareness that MIT has not rescinded this invitation already,” Truschke tweeted. “I think they owe their students, faculty, and donors an explanation for how it was even issued in the first place.”