When Shweta Kothari, the former managing editor of the news website The Logical Indian, tweeted on 8 December that she would be teaching a media ethics course at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, little did she know that it would spark a row a few days later, raising questions about the alleged saffronisation of the institute.
According to Kothari, she was supposed to teach a unit in TV and Radio Journalism at the media institute, spanning five to six classes in total. She had already taken one of her classes on Thursday, 8 December, and the rest of her classes were slotted for subsequent Thursdays.
But on Friday, 9 December, she allegedly received a call from IIMC, saying that her next Thursday's class – which is supposed to be on 15 December – has been cancelled "because of an event."
"I told them I can take it on a Friday or a Wednesday. They said they'll let me know, but so far, they haven't given me a date or a time as to when my next class will be," Kothari told The Quint over the phone.
She further claimed that the next morning, she was informed by a journalist and alumnus of IIMC, Hrishikesh Sharma, and a few students from the Hindi Journalism class, that a professor at the university, Rakesh Upadhyay, allegedly showed one of her tweets criticising mainstream media to his class, and reportedly went on to question her credibility to teach media ethics.
In her tweet, Kothari had said, "At a time when mainstream media has become loud and shallow, I will be teaching ‘role, ethics and responsibilities’ of media to postgraduate students of journalism."
Speaking to The Quint, Sharma said, "Some current students of IIMC informed me about this."
On the afternoon of 10 December, Sharma alleged in a Twitter thread, "...according to Hindi Journalism students, She (Kothari) was shamed by HJ course Director @Prof_RKU (Rakesh Upadhyay) for her Facebook post and tweet where she called out mainstream TV channels. Prof Upadhyay showed her tweet to the students of Hindi Journalism and said that... She's coming to teach in a government institute. She'll get (her) salary from the government only. How can she write against this government or the PM? As a professional, how can she speak against the media where students are going to work in future? [sic]"
Prof Upadhyay, meanwhile, denied these allegations in a conversation with The Quint. He said, "No such class has been conducted in my department (Hindi Journalism). Neither did I invite anyone for the lecture nor did I talk about any such thing. I only talk to my students about the topic I am teaching. I don't know her, and I did not use her name in my class. This is neither related to me, nor my department."
Classes Cancelled for Good?
On 10 December, Kothari said that she had received no clarity from IIMC about the status of her lectureship. "I don't really know if I will continue because I haven't been told anything... I called Professor Govind Singh (Course Director at IIMC) this evening. I wanted to air my grievance on how this was allowed. But I haven't received a response," said Kothari.
On 12 December, The Quint called up Professor Singh over the matter, but he was unavailable for comment. Since then, we have tried to contact him thrice but haven't received a response. This story will be updated as and when we receive one.
The Quint also contacted the personal assistant of IIMC's Director General, Sanjay Dwivedi, but they said that he was unavailable.
Kothari, meanwhile, added, "I also called one of the class representatives to ask him if the other classes are happening despite the event, and he said that other classes are happening. I think that confirms my fear."
"As a teacher, my job is not to praise or speak ill of anyone. My job is to teach – my next class was on journalism and accountability, so I was supposed to teach how to hold people in power accountable – no matter who’s in power. I come from a place of academia, for me, it's important to be completely unbiased," she said.
This is not the first time that the IIMC has drawn flak over alleged saffronisation. In 2017, Arunoday Prakash, the vice president of the IIMC Alumni Association, resigned from their post, alleging "systematic saffronisation" of the India's leading journalism school.