It is now official. Jawaharlal Nehru University’s administration, which has been busy inducting mediocre academics over the last few years, has actually taken leave of its senses. The JNU Registrar’s letter to Prof Romila Thapar (87), asking her to submit her CV so that the university can determine if she can continue as Professor Emerita, has caused outrage in India and is likely to embarrass the university internationally.
The letter appears to be a deliberate insult in an attempt to provoke Prof Thapar into abandoning the honorary post. Eminent academics are invited to continue their association, engage a few classes and interact with and guide students and faculty. No remuneration is paid to them. They are given a room in the university where they can spend some time, reading, writing and interacting with students and the faculty. Once chosen, they continue for life.
Only select academics of international repute are chosen for the post. At JNU, the centre from which a professor retires proposes the name, which then is cleared by the respective board of studies, and the university’s academic council and executive council.
Prof Thapar of course has been a strong critic of the BJP Government headed by Narendra Modi and its policies. She has also been outspoken in her criticism of the treatment meted out to the JNU by the Modi Government. In her public writings and interviews also she has not minced her words.
As the news spread on Sunday that JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar had called for Prof Thapar’s CV, there was shock and outrage because Emeritus Professors are never asked to submit their CV. But the Registrar is reported to have informed Thapar that her CV would be examined by a committee constituted by the university to evaluate her work.
Prof Thapar is believed to have earned the ire of the Government by criticising privatization, erosion of autonomy of institutions and crushing of dissent by the Government.
The controversy appears even more farcical because of the doubts voiced in the past about the degrees of the Prime Minister himself and a former HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, and the present HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. While the PM’s degree from Delhi University remains untraced, allegations and court cases have dogged the degrees of Irani and Nishank.
Twitter users on Sunday were quick to react and wondered if this is the time to call upon the PM and the Ministers also to produce their degrees.