Mumbai: Suspended professor Neeraj Hatekar has taken his battle against the University of Mumbai to the streets, quite literally.
His classroom today moved to a footpath outside the university gate in the western suburbs of the city. About 40 students sat cross-legged on newspaper sheets spread out on the footpath, not bothered by the winter sun. A few sat on a stainless steel bench, where morning walkers sit and read newspapers.
They shared it with a street dog taking an afternoon nap.
"I am suspended so I can't take classes inside. I can't afford any other space in Mumbai. So we are right here. Today, I'm teaching them Game Theory," said the bearded professor, perhaps for the first time being interviewed during a class.
These classes will continue everyday between 3 PM and 5 PM.
"We feel extremely proud of our professor. Hatekar Sir was fighting ultimately for the students. Be it inside the university or out on the road, we are solidly behind him," one of Hatekar's econometrics student said.
The sight of a police van stopped them briefly.
"Are they here for us?" wondered Prof Hatekar, but only for a moment, since the university can do nothing to stop classes outside their campus.
"You ask me if the university has got the message? Well I don't think so. They aren't listening," the professor insists as a noisy procession passes by.
Charged with "misconduct" and "moral turpitude", the professor has filed a petition against his suspension.
The University insists the suspension is in order as Hatekar violated rules by misinforming the media and wrong accused the University of mismanagement.
Professor Hatekar has blamed the university administration, especially Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar, for the downslide in the university's academic status. Historians Aroon Tikekar and Ramchandra Guha have agreed with him.
Registrar RA Khan, however, told NDTV that the University had only gained in reputation over the past few years.