Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has withdrawn his candidature for a second term as Nalanda University Chancellor, saying the Narendra Modi government does not want him to continue in the chair.
Sen, who has long been a critic of Modi, in a letter to the governing board of the university blamed the absence of government's approval for delay in nod from the visitor, President Pranab Mukherjee, to his name even though the recommendation was sent to him over a month back.
"Non-action (by the government) is a time-wasting way of reversing a board decision, when the government has, in principle, the power to act or not act...It is hard for me not to conclude that the government wants me to cease being the chancellor of Nalanda University after July, and technically, it has the power to do so.”
"This delay, as well as the uncertainty involved, is leading, in effect, to a decisional gap, which is not helpful to Nalanda University's governance and its academic progress.”
"I have, therefore, decided that in the best interest of Nalanda University, I should exclude myself from being considered for continuing as chancellor beyond this July, despite the unanimous recommendation and urging of the governing board for me to continue," he has written.
It is clear that Mukherjee has been unable to provide his assent to the board's unanimous choice in the absence of government's approval, he said.
The visitor has always taken a "deep personal interest"in the speedy progress of the work of Nalanda University, and given that, they have to assume that something makes it difficult -- or impossible -- for him to act with speed in this matter, he said.
The board had made the recommendation in its last meeting on January 13-14.
The Bharat Ratna also rued that academic governance in India remains "so deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling government".
"Even though the Nalanda University Act, passed by Parliament, did not, I believe, envisage political interference in academic matters, it is formally the case -- given the legal provisions (some of them surviving from colonial days) -- that the government can turn an academicissue into a matter of political dispensation if it feelsunrestrained about interfering," he said.
Sen also cited more instances of the government's interference in the university's functioning.
There was considerable "disquiet among board members" about the government's "evident unwillingness" to appreciate the international character of Nalanda University and to pay appropriate attention to its multi-country governing board.
"In particular, the governing board was kept completely in the dark about an attempted unilateral move by the government to rapidly reconstitute the entire board, and to do this in violation of some parts of the Nalanda University Act (reflected especially in the letters that have already been sent out to foreign governments, departing from the provisions of the Act as it now stands)," Sen wrote.
Sen said he wrote the letter with a heavy heart since re-establishing the institution, a famous centre of scholarship in ancient times, has been a lifelong commitment for him. He has had an uneasy relationship with the ruling BJP, more so after he came out against Modi's prime ministerial credentials during the run up to Lok Sabha election.