Ramachandra Guha, historian, biographer and author stated that he would not be joining Ahmedabad University (AU) in Gujarat because of circumstances beyond his control in a tweet on Thursday, November 1, two weeks after the RSS student wing opposed his appointment. He was supposed to join AU on February 1, 2019.
On October 16, Ahmedabad University announced that Guha was appointed as the Shrenik Lalbhai Chair Professor of Humanities and director of the Gandhi Winter School at the university’s School of Arts and Sciences.
Pankaj Chandra, Vice Chancellor and Chairman of Ahmedabad University, had said in a statement: “With the interest in liberal education gaining impetus in India, Dr Guha will bring his interpretation of history including environmental, political, contemporary and even cricket history to develop interesting and powerful programmes and research that stand at the confluence of various disciplines. Equally important, his presence will help the University build our own dialogue around (Mahatma) Gandhi.”
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad threatened to protest against the decision on October 19. The ABVP is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Pravin Desai, ABVP’s secretary for Ahmedabad city, confirmed this when he told The Indian Express: “We made a representation before AU Registrar BM Shah. We said that we want intellectuals in our educational institutes and not anti-nationals, who can also be termed as ‘urban Naxals’. We had quoted anti-national content from his (Guha’s) books to the Registrar. We told him, the person you are calling is a ‘Communist’. If he is invited to Gujarat, there would be a JNU-kind anti-national sentiment.”
The memorandum that was addressed to the Vice-Chancellor and demanded the cancellation of Guha’s appointment. It described his work as “critical of India’s Hindu culture”.
The memoranda stated that Guha’s writings could encourage “divisive tendencies, alienation in the name of independence of the individual, freeing terrorists in the name of independence of the individual, and separating Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian union” that is seen in other universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and Central University in Hyderabad.
Sources said the AU administration reached out to Guha on Monday to discuss the possibility of deferring the date of his joining.
“It was clear that the (university) administration was under immense (political) pressure. What was not clear was if that pressure would ease up even after the (Lok Sabha) elections,” said a source close to the historian told The Indian Express. Two days after AU reached out to him, Guha tweeted his decision to not join the university.
“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I shall not be joining Ahmedabad University. I wish AU well; it has fine faculty and an outstanding Vice-Chancellor. And may the spirit of Gandhi one day come alive once more in his native Gujarat,” he said on Thursday, November 1.
When National Herald reached out to Ramchandra Guha, he said he had nothing more to add to his tweets.
Ahmedabad University was founded by the Ahmedabad Education Society, a non-profit educational trust in 2009. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, Ganesh Mavalankar; the first Parliament Speaker and Amrutlal Hargovandas established AES more than eight decades ago.
The institution states that they offer students “a liberal education” and attempts to mould “independent thinkers and compassionate leaders.”
People who were familiar with the situation stated that the political pressure played a significant role in Ramachandra Guha’s appointment. However Ahmedabad University officials declined to comment.