My Writing Perceived as Risky for Ashoka: PB Mehta on Resignation

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in his letter, said that his public writing is perceived to carry risks for the university.

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India
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Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned as professor at Ashoka University on Tuesday, 16 March.
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Political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who tendered his resignation as professor at Ashoka University on Tuesday, 16 March, said that he was doing so after it was made abundantly clear to him that his association with the institution “may be considered a political liability.”

Mehta, in his letter, said that his public writing is perceived to carry risks for the university.

“My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the University. In the interests of the University, I resign.”   

“It is clear it is time for me to leave Ashoka,” Mehta wrote. He also pointed out that a liberal university will need a liberal political and social context to flourish.

“I hope the University will play a role in securing that environment,” he added.

Mehta, in his resignation letter, however, requested the University to take due consideration of his driver, and sought interim help to be granted to him, while he makes “alternative arrangements to transfer him to an appropriate payroll.”

The Resignation

The resignation comes two years after Mehta stepped down from the post of Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University, one of the foremost liberal arts institutes in the country, citing a desire to return to full-time academic life.

A spokesperson from Ashoka University confirmed the resignation to The Indian Express.

“During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor and member of faculty, he immensely contributed to the University. Ashoka University wishes him well in his future endeavours.”   

The University avoided answering a question put forth by the newspaper on whether the resignation had anything to do with Mehta’s criticism of the incumbent government.

Mehta is a prolific writer and a critical thinker. He has been critical of the government’s moves in various articles written for The Hindu, Financial Times, The Telegraph, and is an editorial consultant for The Indian Express.

Full Text of the Letter

Here is the full, unedited text of the letter written by Mehta to Ashoka V-C Malabika Sarkar:

Dear Prof Sarkar,

I write to tender my resignation from Ashoka University as University Professor. After a meeting with Founders it has become abundantly clear to me that my association with the University may be considered a political liability. My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the University I resign. I would request that the resignation take immediate effect. I am teaching one class, and would not like to leave the students stranded. But I think the university can find a solution. I can informally finish out the rest of the classes, if no other solution is found.

It has been a great privilege to get to know the students and several wonderful colleagues at Ashoka. I hope that the institution continues to thrive. I thank you and the Chancellor for your personal kindness over the years of my association with Ashoka.

It is clear it is time for me to leave Ashoka. A liberal university will need a liberal political and social context to flourish. I hope the university will play a role in securing that environment. Nietzsche once said that “no living for truth is possible in a university.” I hope that prophecy does not come true. But in light of the prevailing atmosphere, the Founders and the Administration will require renewed commitment to the values of Ashoka, and new courage to secure Ashoka’s freedom.

My only request is that the administration cooperate in making all the transition formalities as painless as possible. If any arrangements can take due consideration of my driver, Gajendra Sahu, I will be most grateful. He moved jobs with me and should not be penalised. If some interim help can be granted to him, while I make alternative arrangements to transfer him to an appropriate payroll, I shall be obliged.

I will forever remain a supporter of the values Ashoka is meant to embody. Please convey my deepest gratitude to all of Ashoka’s faculty, students and staff. They have all been unfailingly professional, supportive and generous.

I will have a hard copy with my signature sent to you as well. But this mail be treated as my resignation.

With warmest personal regards,
Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Cc: Chancellor, Rudrangshu Mukherjee

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