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'Anybody who does not agree with them is anti-national'

April 27, 2016 10:24 IST

Sandeep Pandey'The judge said that anybody who does not believe in the RSS ideology is not acceptable to you. You have terminated his contract because he thought differently.'

'The Modi government has no accomplishment to show. Therefore, they are using the tool of nationalism to divert the country's attention from very serious things like farmers suicides and the water crisis.'

'You cannot simply dismiss anyone because they are not willing to raise a slogan and not think like you.'

Magsaysay Award winner Professor Sandeep Pandey, image, left, of the Benares Hindu University is ecstatic after the Allahabad high court directed BHU to reinstate him.

In January, Dr Pandey was sacked from his job and termed an 'anti-national' and a 'Naxalite' by BHU authorities.

A PhD in mechanical engineering from Berkeley University in the US, Dr Pandey was a visiting professor at IIT-BHU for mechanical and chemical engineering classes.

Dr Pandey spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com after his reinstatement.

After the court verdict, do you think your stance has been vindicated that it was a Sangh Parivar ploy to oust you from BHU?

I have been vindicated because if you look at the judgment, it clearly says the complainant (a student) belongs to a certain ideology. He believed in a certain ideology and the administrators of the university also believed in that ideology.

These people combined took action against me because I have a faith in a different kind of ideology. So it was essentially a conflict of ideology. My contract was terminated because of this difference.

The court said the administrators of the university should remain neutral. Their decision should not be influenced by their ideology. More importantly, the court quoted Hindu Mahasabha leader Madan Mohan Malviya, who is the founder of the university, which I didn't know of before reading the judgment.

He (Pandit Malviya) had said India does not belong to Hindus alone. There are Sikhs, Parsis, Muslims and Christians. It belongs to all of them. And only if people from different faiths live together will the country be strengthened.

This is a clear criticism of the RSS ideology which tries to force Hindutva ideology upon people, and says that there is a place for people following different religions and following different ideologies.

The court also defended freedom of expression clearly. It said that I was entitled to my opinion because the freedom of expression is given in the Constitution.

Justice V K Shukla, the senior judge, in one of the hearings said that my termination went to show that (they objected) my views on Kashmir and beef in my class. He said that anybody who does not believe in the RSS ideology is not acceptable to you. You have terminated his contract because he thought differently. That cannot be the basis for sacking him.

At one point the court said that a university is a place where everybody is free to express free thought and you cannot impose your thoughts on anybody.

The court also said that charges of being against the national interest were loosely used. Do you feel it has become a norm for the Narendra Modi government to term whoever is against the Bharatiya Janata Party-RSS ideology as anti-national?

It is ridiculous. Anybody who does not agree with their thought process or their ways (is anti-national). There are so many people in the country who are doing their work honestly.

Like these artisans who belong to the Muslim community will never say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. Even atheists like me, who do not believe in idol worship, cannot say that slogan.

People have different ways of working for society and the nation. They are not less committed than those who believe they are nationalist.

You cannot simply dismiss them because they are not willing to raise a slogan and not think like you.

The judgment in my case says that the decision to terminate my contract was not based on rules. It was punitive and stigmatic.

They have cast aspersions on my character by saying that I was acting against the national interest. They said I was a Naxalite. They also accused me of cyber-crime.

If it was such a serious crime, then why did they not register an FIR against me? They should have let the police take action against me. They did not do that.

They just levelled accusations against me without investigation or giving me a chance to clarify my position.

You said that you spoke about the beef ban issue in your class. There is a joke on the Internet that the Modi government believes only in targeting beef, students, Dalits and Muslims. How far is that true?

Yes, that is true. First it was the Ram temple issue, then he raised the issue of the Ganga. Now it is close to two years since Modi is in power and I don't think the situation of the Ganga is any better than when he was elected the prime minister in May 2014.

The sewage from Varanasi city is still flowing into the Ganga. They have not been able to create enough capacity for sewage treatment of the entire city. It is a failure of their promises.

It is the failure of the Modi government to bring in any foreign investments in the name of 'Make in India.' They ridiculed Dr Manmohan Singh during the elections, but see what he did in terms of passing some landmark laws like the Right to Education, the Right to Information, MNREGA, forest rights, the Right to Food, the Vendors Act and the Domestic Violence Act.

These are the things Dr Singh has left behind. Compared to that, the Modi government has no accomplishment to show. Therefore, they are using the tool of nationalism to divert the country's attention from very serious things like farmers suicides and the water crisis.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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