Mumbai University students, teachers and members of Aam Adami Party (AAP) protested in support of Prof. Neeraj Hatekar (Economics department), who was suspended on January 4 for allegedly misinforming the media about the irregularities committed by the Vice-Chancellor (VC) and hence breaching code of conduct.

Hundreds of students blocked the main gate of the university and appealed others to boycott the lectures. A number of professors too, in solidarity with Prof. Hatekar cancelled their lectures while others worked with black ribbon tied on their sleeves.

Following the intervention by Police forces the protest was moved within the varsity campus.

Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) has termed the suspension as illegal, improper, unjust and in gross violation of the principles of natural justice. C. R. Sadasivan, President, BUCTU, said that the suspension should be withdrawn immediately taking the criticism positively.

Vaidehi Tandel, a PhD student from the Department of Economics told The Hindu that students are protesting against the ‘unlawful’ suspension of Prof. Hatekar. “The allegations made by a reputed professor like him (Hatekar) are serious in nature. Instead of conducting a proper inquiry, the Dr. Welukar suspended him. It shows that he has a lot to hide,” said Preety Sharma-Menon, a leader from AAP.

Prof. Hatekar in the past had raised questions about the validity of appointment of Dr. Welukar as varsity’s VC. It was alleged that he had submitted misleading documents claiming them as his research papers and also wrongly stated his experience in teaching profession.

In a press conference held on December 12, as part of a group called Joint Action Committee for Improvement of Higher Education, Prof. Hatekar had levelled allegations such as failure to collect its share of annual student fees from colleges, several co-opted members on the boards of studies not being qualified, unusable lecture halls, malpractices in conduct of examinations and dilution of the qualifications for being a PhD guide. As a result he was suspended on January 4.

Prof. Hatekar told The Hindu that he was suspended on flimsy grounds and has challenged the decision in Bombay High Court. “Students in general are unhappy and agitated about the varsity’s facilities. The anger shown by students today is against the present system. I will be happy if it brings positive change in it,” said Prof. Hatekar, while commenting on students’ support to him.

The student organisations too have joined hands in favour of Prof. Hatekar and the issues that he raised. The Students Federation of India (SFI) has appealed to renowned scientist Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar to not attend varsity’s convocation ceremony on January 12 in solidarity with students and administration’s total neglect towards solving pending issues.

Despite repeated attempts Dr. Welukar was not available for comments.

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