Students hold rasta roko at Kalina campus, raise slogans against the autocratic action of the Varsity and demand withdrawal of his supension and respectful reinstatement
Mumbai : Students held a rasta roko at the Kalina campus of Mumbai University on Monday in protest against the suspension of Professor Neeraj Hatekar from the Department of Economics.
Some 200 students barricaded the gate. Meanwhile, Hatekar who has been suspended for maligning the University’s reputation by holding a press conference and providing false information to the media has moved the High Court with his appeal of innocence.
Raising slogans against the autocratic action of the University’s administration, the students demanded withdrawal of Hatekar’s suspension and his respectful appointment to his position.
“The college management and university authorities have falsely fabricated the issue in a disproportionate, one-sided and high handed manner. It is a pre-meditated design to create scare amongst the teachers who raise their voices against the University’s degrading levels. The malafide and biased behaviour of the committee members in collusion with Vice-Chancellor Rajan Velukar, who had approved of the suspension, was part of a larger agenda to create a horror”, said one of Hatekar’s student.
“It is complete autocracy. You are living in Vice-chacellor’s empire. Don’t raise your voice against the ruler or you will be terminated,” said another.
A memorandum was presented which laid emphasis on taking Hatekar back into his position as soon as possible by the students. After three hours of protest and rasta roko, the memorandum was accepted by the University. “They are yet to state their decision, but we will keep on protesting as long as they don’t accept our demand,” said a student.
According to lecturers of several departments, Neeraj Hatekar has been targeted for raising his voice against poor academic as well as administrative performance of the University.
“Hatekar is the convenor of the Joint Action Committee for Improvement of Higher Education in Maharashtra. It is a body that has questioned the appointment of the vice-chancellor, who many staffers have claimed has doubtful academic and publication records,” informed a lecturer from the University.
Lecturers also claimed that it was Hatekar’s RTI that revealed that many of the professors also have dubious certificates as the college to which they claim to belong does not offer PG teaching in their subject.
Another lecturer told FPJ that when the management council formed for discussing Hatekar’s case met, most members supported VC’s claim that Hatekar has degraded the university’s reputation. “Most people on the MC are the VC’s men,” informed an assistant professor.
Professor Neeraj Hatekar has decided to move court against his suspension by Mumbai University for “providing false information to the media”. Hatekar said on Sunday that he “will challenge the suspension in court”.
Students, faculty join hands to support suspended professor
Protesting against the suspension of professor Neeraj Hatekar, nearly 50 students staged a demonstration in the Kalina campus on Monday, and also started a signature petition demanding immediate withdrawal of the suspension order.
The department of Economics faculty also submitted a resolution to the authorities, highlighting that Hatekar had simply used his right to freedom of speech.
Hatekar was suspended on January 4 by Mumbai Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar for allegedly misinforming the media about irregularities in the varsity and for breaching the code of conduct. The suspension order had come after Hatekar held a press conference on December 12, “exposing” Welukar for mismanagement of the university.
In the conference, the professor, as director of a group called Joint Action Committee for Improvement of Higher Education, had levelled allegations such as failure to collect its share of annual student fees from colleges, several co-opted members on the boards of studies not being qualified, unusable lecture halls, malpractices in conduct of examinations and dilution of the qualifications for being a PhD guide.
On Monday, as many as 170 signatures were collected against the suspension order. Apart from the Economics department, students from several other departments submitted their own demands to the V-C.
“I have known Dr Hatekar for the past five years now. His addressing the media has not violated any code of conduct and neither has he insulted the V-C. The highlighted issues have been around since 2011. How can the university abruptly remove somebody for voicing his opinions? We want him back with respect and dignity,” said Pari Naaz, a PhD student.
The students also mentioned other demands, including new hostels and facility of virtual classrooms, among others.
Meanwhile, 18 faculty members, including director Ritu Dewan, organised a meeting on Monday in this regard and passed a resolution. Calling it a “draconian decision” in their letter, they reasoned, “Being an autonomous department, the issue should have been put forward before the department’s management and academic boards.
The violation of the basic freedom of speech prompted us to pursue the matter. There is a due process that the university needs to follow, which includes memos or show cause notices. Instead, the University has called in an emergency and used the V-C directive to issue this order. Where is the emergency here?”
University’s public relations officer Naresh Chandra, on the other hand, said, “The suspension order was issued as per the Maharashtra University Act of 1994. The decision is an institutional one and not personal. Inquiry will be conducted as per the procedure. His suspension was debated and deliberated upon by the Management Council.”
Meanwhile, denying all charges, Hatekar said he had not only written to the V- C but also to the Chancellor but never received an appropriate response. “I wrote numerous letters to the administration but there was no remedial action. We realised that there was no point of going to the university and thus took up the option of going to the media,” said Hatekar. He will be filing a petition against the university in the High Court on Tuesday.
Withdraw economics professor’s suspension’
TNN | Jan 7, 2014,
On January 4, the university’s management council suspended Hatekar for “violating the code of conduct and moral turpitude” after he had called a press conference and spoke of MU’s decline and alleged irregularities in the institution.
In a meeting of permanent faculty members on Monday, teachers said the “draconian decision” has disrupted teaching. They added that Hatekar has adhered to the university’s code of conduct
and the press conference, he had called for, is a right guaranteed by the Constitution to express concern about the “deteriorating conditions in the university”.
The resolution, a copy of which is with TOI, said, “Our colleague has never resorted to unparliamentarily language, calumny, slander, and such that would call forth disciplinary action. We are at a loss to understand the charge of ‘moral turpitude’ levelled against him. If anything, he has shown moral courage for the sake of the good of the university.”
On Monday, Hatekar’s students came together on Monday morning and protested on Kalina campus. In a letter to the V-C, urging him to reconsider the order, they said, “He [Hatekar]…is spearheading the task of improving the academic scenario surrounding economics in the country. It is needless to mention the gravity of loss we would suffer due to his absence.”
Prashant, spokesperson of University Community for Democracy and Equality, said the V-C’s decision reflected “the shrinking democratic space within the campus”. He said, “Students have decided to take the agitation to various colleges.” Being an autonomous department, the issue should have been put forward before the department’s management board and academic board. Instead an extreme step was imposed by the university authorities.