Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Thursday withdrew his candidature for a second term as Chancellor of Nalanda University in Bihar, since the Narendra Modi government had not given its approval to his nomination.
“It is hard for me not to conclude that the government wants me to cease being the Chancellor of Nalanda University after this July,” Dr. Sen said.
In a letter to members of the Governing Board, he said there was a unanimous resolution in January that he should have another term, but the President as Visitor was not able to give his assent to it.
Dr. Sen said academic governance in the country remained “deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling government,” where it chose to make political use of special provisions in a university’s statute.
Declaring his decision not to be considered any longer for another term as Chancellor of Nalanda University in Bihar, Professor Sen said even though the Act governing the institution did not envisage political interference in academic matters, given the legal provisions, the government could turn an academic issue into a “matter of political dispensation.”
“As a proud and concerned citizen of India, I take this particular occasion to communicate my general disquiet in public, which is why I am openly sharing this letter,” he said in a communication to fellow members on the university’s Governing Board.
More than a month had passed since the Board made the unanimous choice that he should serve as Chancellor of the university for a second term.
But the President, who was the Visitor, had been unable to provide his assent to the decision of January 13-14, in the absence of the government’s approval. The Board had not got a reply to its request, either from the President’s office or the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Dr. Sen said President Pranab Mukherjee had always taken a “deep personal interest in the speedy progress” of the university’s work, and it could be assumed that something was making it difficult or impossible for him to act quickly in the matter.
“Non-action is a time-wasting way of reversing a Board decision, when the government has, in principle, the power to act or not act,” he said.
A similar situation was encountered on the issue of revised statutes passed by the Board unanimously, including one relating to the Chancellor’s term of office. They never received formal acceptance or rejection from the MEA, which had the responsibility to coordinate with the Visitor’s office.
“It is hard for me not to conclude that the government wants me to cease being the Chancellor of Nalanda University after this July, and technically it has the power to do so,” Dr. Sen said, adding that he was writing the letter with a heavy heart, since re-establishing Nalanda had been a life-long commitment for him.