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Nalanda Uni Asks American Prof To Apologise For Critical Comments

After her course on yoga was canned due to politics, Patricia Sauthoff had commented on NU’s academic atmosphere. 

Published
India
3 min read
Professor Patricia Sauthoff has been asked to apologise by Nalanda University for her comments against a cancelled yoga course she taught. 
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Nalanda University has reportedly directed American scholar Patricia Sauthoff to tender an unconditional apology for her critical comments to the media, on the discontinuation of her course titled History and Politics of Yoga. According to The Telegraph, the email Sauthoff received said “appropriate action” will be taken if she fails to apologise.

Sauthoff, the newspaper reported, has said she will not apologise because it was BJP national secretary Ram Madhav, and not her, who made the university’s internal matters public.

She was visiting faculty at NU for a semester, and is pursuing her PhD at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) in London. Currently, she is working on project on secrecy and power in non-dual Śaiva Tantric traditions and the intersection of Buddhist and Śaiva philosophy.

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The Inciting Event

On 8 September, Ram Madhav tweeted:

However, Sauthoff was not brought in to teach the course during Amartya Sen’s time as Chairman of NU’s board. He left in November 2016; Sauthoff taught the course from January to May 2017.

Following this tweet, The Telegraph spoke to Sauthoff, who criticised the decision, worried about the academic atmosphere in the university.

I think this (is) an example of how the academic atmosphere at Nalanda is dissipating.... It is worrying.
Patricia Sauthoff speaking to The Telegraph

Extrapolating for The Caravan later that month, she said:

“Both the university’s new chancellor, Vijay Bhatkar, and vice chancellor, Sunaina Singh, have close relationships with the RSS. I imagine they felt my course would threaten the RSS-approved narrative of the history of yoga. I also think that looking at their politics within the yoga sphere caused them to feel personally threatened. At my first and only meeting with Singh and the faculty, [in May 2017], she told us that she was “not political, but a hardcore nationalist.” Clearly, this is a contradiction. She also announced that she wanted to start courses on the “history of science,” which I read as coded for Vedic science, and month-long yoga and meditation intensives for members of the Nalanda student body, faculty, and others.”

She also added, writing in to The Telegraph from the States, that after her Madahav’s tweet, she was flooded with calls from the Indian media, and trolled online by right-wing supporters, who “sexually degraded” her and called for an expulsion of all foreigners from Indian universities.

The Fallout

Nalanda University then directed Sauthoff, via an email memo written by officiating registrar Pankaj Mohan, to tender an unconditional apology for her comments to the media.

There is nothing for me to apologise for since it was not me, but NU officials who spoke to political leaders and the media to try and discredit me and the course I taught.
Patricia Sauthoff

She was also told that her last salary and “other allowances” would not be released unless she furnished a “no dues” certificate. In her response, according to The Telegraph, Sauthoff pointed out that when she left the campus on 19 May, she was still an employee of NU with a contract that she was told would be renewed. On 13 June, she even received an offer to renew her contract, but it was withdrawn six days later.

Since then, Sauthoff has written to NU several times to the university asking for the "no dues" certificate as she has left her keys, identity cards and SIM card behind at Nalanda University while leaving the campus. There has been no constructive response.

Your statement that I have been negligent is incorrect and misleading. It would have been more constructive, post NU’s termination of my contract, and since I would not be returning to campus for the next term, for NU to do the requisite paperwork and release my salary.
Patricia Sauthoff, in her email to NU

The university refused to offer any comment when The Telegraph asked for its side of the story except this: “Every member of the university has to comply with the prescribed set of rules and regulations of the university, even while leaving.”

Also Read: Nalanda University Suspends Student After Protests Against VC

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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