Counterview, Jan 7 2016, New Delhi: Well-known Gandhian academic, educationist, social activist Sandeep Pandey has accused RSS hardliners for forcing the decision of the Banaras Hindu University’s Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) for prematurely ending his contract of working as visiting faculty after teaching there for two-and-a-half years.
“This decision was prematurely taken by the Board of Governors (BoG)”, he has said, adding, “In a recent Board meeting the Vice Chancellor of BHU, who was made the Chairman of the IIT Board of Governors by the Minister of HRD, government of India, Smriti Irani, after by-passing the panel of five names recommended by a resolution of the Board of Governors.”
“Thereafter”, he said, “Professor G.C. Tripathi, and Dean of Faculty Affairs, IIT, BHU and professor Dhananjay Pandey, both gentlemen associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), primarily forced the decision.”
Explaining the reason for his premature ouster, Pandey, who is a prestigious Magsasay awardee for the year 2002 as an outstanding emergent leader, says that the charges levelled against him is that he is “a Naxalite, showed a banned documentary on Nirbhaya case” and is also “involved in anti-national activities.”
In a short explanatory note published in e-journal sagrangindia.in, Pandey says, “I wish to clarify that I’m not a Naxalite. The ideology that I would consider myself closest to is Gandhian.” He adds, “But I do identify with the causes taken up by Naxalites even though I may not agree with their methods.”
As for the charge that he had shown the banned documentary on Nirbhaya made by the BBC, “India’s Daughter”, to the students, he says, it was to be screened in his Development Studies class during the even semester of academic year 2014-15, “but the decision was withdrawn after intervention of Chief Proctor of the BHU and officer of the Lanka Police Station just before the class.”
“However”, says Pandey, “A discussion on the issue of violence against women in our society was conducted after screening a different documentary.”
Coming to the charge that he is anti-national, Pandey says, “I do not believe in the idea of a nation or national boundaries, which I think are responsible for artificial divisions among human beings similar to the ones on the basis of caste or religion. Hence I cannot be anti or pro-nation. I am pro-people.”
He explains, “I’m not a nationalist but am a universalist. I have no regrets as the decision to terminate my contract has not been taken based on my academic performance but it is because of my political views and activities. I’ve enjoyed my stay at IIT, BHU and wish the Institute and the Univeristy very much.”
Reports say, the decision to remove Pandey was conveyed to him by Rajeev Sangal, director of IIT-BHU, on January 1, though he is yet to receive an official letter conveying it. His contract was to come to an end in July 2016.
In 1991, Pandey co-founded Asha for Education, an NGO, to provide education to underprivileged children, which now its presence in almost all states of the country. He also co-founded the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of several people’s organizations of India. NAPM is led by top social activist Medha Patkar.
Pandey is known not to wear ironed clothes, avoids milk as he believes that cows produce milk for their young ones, and acquired considerable praise for leading an India-Pakistan peace march to Multan in 2005.
In 2002, the year he received Magsasay award, Pandey, along with some well-known activists, was dragged into a controversy for attending the inaugural function of a leftist outfit where the kin of some Naxalites killed in a police action in Bihar were honoured.
In 2010, his visit to the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh – where the Maoists are active – for a public hearing of NAPM against the local administration. The hearing met with opposition from some people, which NAPM’s Medha Patkar said was “stage managed”.