In his resignation letter to Ashoka University, political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta said he was quitting because it had become “abundantly clear” to him that his association with the university may be considered a “political liability”.
“My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the university,” Mehta wrote. “It is clear it is time for me to leave Ashoka.”
Mehta, a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, had resigned as professor of the Ashoka University on Tuesday, less than two years after he stepped down as the university’s vice chancellor. The university had refused to say whether his writings and criticism were connected to the resignation. Economist Arvind Subramanian also quit after Mehta’s exit.
The resignations caused widespread anger among students and faculty members at Ashoka University, which describes itself as “a pioneer in its focus on providing a liberal education at par with the best in the world”.
The students said they were “extremely saddened” by the exit of Mehta and Subramanian, who were invaluable members of the Ashoka community. They also criticised the administration for failing to protect faculty members from “external pressures”.
The faculty, meanwhile, said the fact that Mehta’s resignation could be a direct consequence of his critical views about the government, set a “chilling precedent” for future.
Here’s the full text of Mehta’s resignation letter:
To, Prof. Malabika Sarkar, Vice- Chancellor, Ashoka University. Sonepat.
Dear Prof Sarkar, I write to tender my resignation from Ashoka University as University Professor. After a meeting with Founders it has become abundantly clear to me that my association with the University may be considered a political liability. My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the University I resign. I would request that the resignation take immediate effect. I am teaching one class, and would not like to leave the students stranded. But I think the university can find a solution. I can informally finish out the rest of the classes, if no other solution is found.
It has been a great privilege to get to know the students and several wonderful colleagues at Ashoka. I hope that the institution continues to thrive. I thank you and the Chancellor for your personal kindness over the years of my association with Ashoka.
It is clear it is time for me to leave Ashoka. A liberal university will need a liberal political and social context to flourish. I hope the university will play a role in securing that environment. Nietzsche once said that “no living for truth is possible in a university.” I hope that prophecy does not come true. But in light of the prevailing atmosphere, the Founders and the Administration will require renewed commitment to the values of Ashoka, and new courage to secure Ashoka’s freedom.
My only request is that the administration cooperate in making all the transition formalities as painless as possible. If any arrangements can take due consideration of my driver, Gajendra Sahu, I will be most grateful. He moved jobs with me and should not be penalised. If some interim help can be granted to him, while I make alternative arrangements to transfer him to an appropriate payroll, I shall be obliged.
I will forever remain a supporter of the values Ashoka is meant to embody. Please convey my deepest gratitude to all of Ashoka’s faculty, students and staff. They have all been unfailingly professional, supportive and generous.
I will have a hard copy with my signature sent to you as well. But this mail be treated as my resignation.
With warmest personal regards, Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Cc: Chancellor, Rudrangshu Mukherjee