A day after there was an uproar over the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration asking historian Romila Thapar for her CV, the professor emerita has said that this was an attempt to dishonour her as she had questioned certain decision by the JNU administration.
While the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has come out in support of Thapar, calling this move politically motivated, the JNU administration has said that it is following its ordinance “in letter and spirit”.
Thapar told The Indian Express, “It is a move to try and dishonour someone who has been critical of the changes that have been introduced in JNU by the present administration. I have been quite vocal in saying that their ways of functioning are detrimental to an institution such as a university. Some of us spent a lifetime in building a new university that we were determined would be a world-class university, both to make the point that such universities were essential to our academic and intellectual life, and also that we Indians were capable of setting up such a university. We succeeded.”
The JNU registrar wrote to Thapar asking her to submit her CV in July 2019, reportedly so that they can evaluate whether she should continue as professor emerita.
PTI reported that the registrar’s communication stemmed from a resolution of JNU’s executive council on August 23, 2018, which revised the guidelines for designation as an emeritus professor.
Amid controversy over the move, the JNU has said in a statement, “As per the ordinance, the university is required to write to all those who have attained the age of 75 years to know their availability and their willingness to continue their association with the university. Letters have been written only to those emeritus professors who fall in this category.”
However, JNUTA called it a “deliberate attempt to try and dishonour those who have been critical of the current administration”. The association demanded a formal retraction of the move and said a personal apology be issued to Thapar.
The association said it was outraged at the efforts by the administration to “denigrate” the teaching and learning traditions of JNU via its “tasteless communications” to Thapar. It accused the association of having an “agenda” to allegedly destroy the legacies and the promise of the university.
“The insult to Prof. Romila Thapar is just another politically motivated step in this regard, motivated no doubt by the active and steadfast support and inspiration she has provided to the teachers and students of JNU in their fight to keep the university in line with the vision and ideals embedded into its foundations,” JNUTA said.
Thapar, and every other professor emeritus/emerita of JNU, have been nominated to this honorary position for life for their immense contribution to their disciplines and to the building of JNU as an institution, the statement said.
Thapar was designated professor emerita in 1993, a full 25 years before this “misplaced guideline” was formulated, JNUTA said.
“Any retrospective application of this guideline to her is simply illegal, but the very formulation of this guideline by the EC is a clear indication of how bereft it is of an understanding of the academic and intellectual life of a university,” it said.
Meanwhile, Thapar told The Indian Express that it was rather laughable that the university thought her reputation as a historian could be affected by this.
(With PTI inputs)