Founders of Ashoka University bartered away its soul: Raghuram Rajan on Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation controversy

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Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan has said that the foudners of the Ashoka University had have bartered away the institution’s soul by forcing columnist Pratap Bhanu Mehta to resign from the university. In a long Linkedin post, Rajan wrote, “Ashoka’s founders should have realised that their mission was indeed not to take political sides but to continue to protect the right of people like Pratap Bhanu Mehta to speak, for in doing so, they were enabling Ashoka to make its greatest contribution to India’s wellbeing –– identifying what is wrong and encouraging us all to remedy it.”

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The former RBI Governor said that free speech was the soul of a great university and, by compromising on it, ‘the founders have bartered away its soul.’

Rajan added, “The reality is that Professor Mehta is a thorn in the side of the establishment. He is no ordinary thorn because he skewers those in government and in high offices like the Supreme Court with vivid prose and thought-provoking arguments. It is not that he has much sympathy for the opposition either.”

Mehta, a known newspaper columnist, had written in his resignation letter, “After a meeting with Founders it has become abundantly clear to me that my association with the University may be considered a political liability. My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the University I resign.”

Rajan said that he hoped Mehta to ‘continue to be, one of the intellectual leaders of liberalism in India.’

His resignation had evoked strong reactions from activists, who felt that this was another example of freedom of expression being stifled by the Narendra Modi government. However, many had referred to Mehta’s old newspaper columns showering praises on Modi when the latter was the Gujarat chief minister. Mehta’s critics said that he did not deserve sympathy for whitewashing Modi’s past as a leader, who presided over one of India’s worst anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002.

You can read Raghuram’s full post here.

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