As many as 88 academics have written a letter to Kolhapur’s College of Engineering urging its authorities to allow one of its professors to return to work and ensure her safety after she was asked to go on “forced leave” over a controversy surrounding alleged “anti-Hindu” remarks made by her during a classroom discussion.
Academic Freedom Network, a network of university teachers and students, also noted in the letter that professor Tejaswi Desai’s hounding by some people was unjustified and that the college authorities and state government should enable her to return honourably to her duties.
The Indian Express has learnt that Prof Desai has resumed her duties after 14 days of forced leave and has been asked to ‘work from home’ for a while. Mohan Vanrott, the director of Kolhapur Institute of Technology, did not respond to calls seeking comments.
According to reports, on June 7, professor Desai held a discussion in her class on religious discrimination, during which some students made objectionable comments about the Muslim community which she countered. A part of this discussion was recorded and posted on social media which apparently portrayed Desai as making “anti-Hindu” comments.
Desai had subsequently claimed that the clip was heavily edited and that she had not said the remarks shown in the edited video. She also refused to apologise, leading to protests by right wing organisations and the college sending her on leave.
The letter written by academics read, “Her assertion that rapists can be from any community is borne out by the most superficial glance at newspaper reports. What she said was recorded, then doctored and circulated on social media, leading to her being forced by college authorities to go on leave and there is even a police investigation against her.”
The signatories include Naveen Gaur, Satish Deshpande, Apoorvanand, Rushdia Mehreen, YS Alone, Sabina Kazmi, Lalita Ramdas, Ranjani Majumdar and Brinelle D’Souza.
The academics also demanded that state governments and university authorities should take steps to control intimidation as “attacks on teachers grow by the day all over the country, both by state institutions and by student activists of right wing organisations”.