Mumbai: Students of the University of Mumbai skipped class today to protest against the suspension of a professor, Neeraj Hatekar, for allegedly criticizing the management. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also joined the protest that has galvanised students across Mumbai.
Dr Hatekar, a professor of Econometrics in the university's economics department was suspended on Saturday, weeks after he went public with allegations of mismanagement by Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar and blamed him for the downslide in the university's academic status, at a press conference last month.
"Dissent and debate is not encouraged at the University. A politically-backed kitchen cabinet runs Mumbai University. When Mr Welukar joined, the university was ranked 96, now it is 150," Dr Hatekar told NDTV, adding that he felt encouraged by the massive support for change.
Dr Hatekar has petitioned the Bombay High Court against the suspension order, calling it arbitrary and illegal.
The university had defended its action. "The suspension is justified as professor Hatekar maligned the university," said Registrar RA Khan. "Why didn't he approach us with these issues in the past three years?"
Students carrying placards in support of the professor shouted slogans today at the university, demanding justice. They allege that Dr Hatekar, who is widely respected as a teacher of game theory and microeconomics, was punished without being given a chance to defend himself.
AAP's Mayank Gandhi said, "The Vice Chancellor has violated every rule by suspending Neeraj Hatekar. It's not justified."
The students had written to the Vice-Chancellor on Monday, asking him to revoke professor Hatekar's suspension. The students are also planning a signature campaign and say they will meet the state Governor.
The protest has gone online with the students setting up a Facebook page 'Save the Mumbai University' to urge more people to join the protest.
Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, "The decline of a great public university is a national tragedy. The administrators of Mumbai University must restore intellectual freedom."