Faculty members of Ashoka University’s Economics and English Departments on Wednesday threatened to stop teaching unless the institute reinstated their colleague who resigned earlier this week over a controversial research paper.
In separate statements, they also demanded that the university must ensure that its governing body does not interfere in their work as “it is likely to precipitate an exodus of faculty”.
Department of Economics Assistant Professor Sabyasachi Das had resigned following a controversy over his research paper “Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy”, which claimed that the BJP won a disproportionate share of seats in closely contested constituencies in the 2019 general election. Ashoka is a Liberal Arts and Sciences education-based private university that receives its funding from various stakeholders. The university’s freedom of speech policy states that it is committed to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed.
The university had in a statement on August 1 distanced itself from the paper, which was shared widely on social media.
Ashoka University authorities have not responded to direct requests for comments on the latest developments. The Economics Department said, “The offer of resignation by our colleague Mr. Das and its hasty acceptance by the university has deeply ruptured the faith that we had reposed in the university’s leadership.” The department urged the governing body to address the issue by August 23.
“Unless these questions regarding basic academic freedom are resolved before the start of the monsoon 2023 semester, faculty members of the department will find themselves unable to carry forward their teaching obligations,” the statement said.
Earlier in an open letter, the Economics Department said, “The governing body’s interference in this process to investigate the merits of his recent study constitutes institutional harassment, curtails academic freedom and forces scholars to operate in an environment of fear.”
The letter said actions of the governing body pose an existential threat to the department. “It is likely to precipitate an exodus of faculty and prevent us from attracting new faculty.”