In continuation of its statement issued on 15th March 2021, Jawaharlal Nehru Teacher’s Association (JNUTA) expresses its unwavering solidarity with the faculty members of Visva Bharati, who have faced unprecedented harassment, coercion and intimidation in the regime of the current Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bidyut Chakraborty, for the past two years. The pretext of participation in protests and expression of dissent in matters where procedure has been compromised has been cited to initiate disciplinary proceedings and charge sheets against more than forty faculty and staff members, which have resulted in thirteen suspensions of faculty members. The latest case of suspension has been of Prof. Manas Maity on 4 May 2022, in violation of an existing High Court Preventive Order against anticipated coercion dated 27.07.2021.
The JNUTA has learnt that the pending enquiries against the faculty and staff have been inordinately delayed, resulting in continued psychological trauma that is bound to adversely impact the academic programmes of the University. In a recent University notification dated 8th May 2022, the University has issued an order (not the first of its kind) that ‘no staff member other than the ‘Social Media Champion as well as the spokesperson (of the University) shall make any statement/views on the matters pertaining to University…..without prior permission’. This virtually silences all possibility of disagreement and dissent, and is in complete contradiction with the idea of a University and the spirit in which Visva Bharati University was founded.
The JNUTA is disturbed to see that instead of building collegiality and nurturing its unique educational programmes, including the cultural practices for which the Visva Bharati University is internationally renowned, the current administration has created an atmosphere of palpable fear that is utterly counter-productive for research and teaching-learning. The direct consequence of this repression and authoritarian administration is that the NAAC and NIRF rankings of the Visva Bharati University have declined considerably under the current Vice Chancellor.
The JNUTA condemns the undemocratic practices in spaces of higher education in the country and calls for the restoration of an environment of free learning, embedded in the principles of the founder of the University, Rabindranath Tagore, encapsulated in his well-loved composition:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way…