10 activist professors who are controversy’s favourite

Good relationships between teachers and students is an all around winning proposition as it fosters an environment where real learning can take place.
In Indian Universities, most professors stand with the students and support them for every right cause they initiate. Students too fight for the rights of their professors whenever needed.

Aapka Times bring to you the list of 10 activist professors who have hugged controversy by taking a strong stand.

Sandeep Pandey

He is currently a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi.He is always clad in white kurta pyajama and simple slippers. His team has launched a people’s group named Asha Parivar that focuses on strengthening democracy at the grassroots in various districts. Pandey’s work at Asha Parivar is focused on Right to Information and other forms of citizen participation in removing corruption and improving the efficiency of governance.He is the leader of National Alliance of People’s Movements. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Controversy- “The charges against me are that I’m a naxalite, showed a banned documentary on Nirbhaya case and am involved in anti-national activities on the campus” said his statement after being sacked from IIT-BHU. Upon receiving the Ramon Magsaysay Award, he returned the cash portion of the award on being challenged to do so by a Philippine newspaper for his earlier remarks describing America as “the biggest terrorist state in the world.” Pandey later clarified that he had never meant to criticise the people of the United States but its government. In 2010, He visited Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh for a Jan Sunvayi (people’s hearing) on atrocities by the local government. His visit was seemingly opposed by some members of local tribal community, where some local tribals were shown to be protesting against him and his team.It was said by Medha Patkar, that the protest was “stage managed” by the district administration officials themselves and the government was rousing the locals rural folk against the civil rights workers.

Nivedita Menon

Nivedita Menon is a feminist writer and professor of political thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Menon has been involved in a wide range of political and social movements. She is the author of Recovering Subversion,Seeing Like a Feminist, the editor of Gender and Politics in India. She writes on current issues in Economic and Political Weekly, kafila.org, and several newspapers.She is known for her staunch opposition to Nuclear Power. She has got AK Ramanujan Award for translation from Hindi and English Malayalam into English.

Controversy- In 2016 March, Nivedita Menon was criticized by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a video surfaced of a speech she made to students at JNU. In her speech, she stated that “Everyone knows that India is illegally occupying Kashmir. It is said the world over. Everybody accepts”.The youth wing of the RSS/BJP filed a complaint against Menon, saying they made “anti-national” statements. Menon later stated that she had not said anything anti-national.

Nandita Narain

Ms Narain, a mathematics professor at St Stephen’s college is the president of DUTA and has been a vocal critic of the implementation of semester system, the four-year undergraduate programme, Choice Based Credit System and of PBAS/API.She has been at the forefront of protests against various issues (concerning the university) in the past. She is not only famous within the students but fellow teachers of central universities respect her for leading the struggle against oppression of all forms. Be it Samosa vs Thampu controversy or the recent ongoing protest of Teachers for complete roll back of PBAS/API guidelines by UGC, She has been actively extending DUTA’s support by taking a stand.

Controversy- In 2014, a complaint has been made against Nandita Narain alleging misconduct and misbehavior in Kalindi and SOL. Nandita Narain visited over 70 colleges regarding the recruitment of ad hoc teachers. However, her visit to Kalindi and SOL purportedly accused DUTA of taking pictures, manhandling and misbehaving with the staff. During the struggle against FYUP Nandita Narain said that former DU Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh was acting like a `terrorist` and had taken the university as `hostage`.Narain had been misquoted in a media article about certain comments she allegedly made against Thampu, which prompted him to bring disciplinary action against her followed by an unpleasant legal battle between Thampu and her.

Mohammad Obaid Siddiqui

He is the former director of the Mass Communication Research Centre at JMI He is a prominent Urdu poet and a well known broadcast journalist of his time.BBC offered him a permanent job and soon he was promoted to the post of Senior Producer.He resigned from BBC and returned to Delhi to pursue his career as a Broadcast Journalist in Television. He joined NDTV as Duty News Editor. He has made three documentary films for Sahitya Akademi.

Controversy– Professor M Obaid Siddiqui had approached the Delhi High Court earlier this year, accusing the ministry, University Grants Commission (UGC) and the President of ignoring “mal-administration” in the university. Siddiqui, in his complaint filed with the HRD Ministry, had mentioned the alleged abolition of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe quota in faculty and staff employment, the “arbitrary” introduction of a supernumerary quota in admissions for the wards of university staff and the absence of a regular registrar and finance officer in the university, among other issues. He had also alleged that the functioning of a central university has been monopolised by its officers to the detriment of legal and administrative sobriety.

Anand Kumar

Anand Kumar is a retired professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University.He was awarded the gold medal in B.H.U. for being the topper in the exams. And yet, because of his association with the student’s movement as the President of the Students Union, he was not allowed to proceed further with his studies at Banaras Hindu University. He completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago. Right from Gunnar Myrdal and Joan Robinson to Jayaprakash Narayan and Kishen Pattanaik, He played an active role. He was the President of JNUTA and FEDCUTA. It was the time of growing unrest all over the country on issues like unemployment, price-rise, problems of the education policy and corruption.Being a JNUite He had the chance to understand a variety of political tendencies in the country and the world because JNU from the very beginning had become the hub of activism in India.

Controversy-Kumar was a National Executive Committee member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He contested on AAP ticket the Indian Lok Sabha elections of 2014 from the North East Delhi parliamentary constituency and came 2nd. Later on he was expelled from AAP for “Anti-Party activities” than finally along with Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Ajit Jha formed a new political organization called Swaraj Abhiyan and currently is a National convenor of Swaraj Abhiyan.

Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar is a distinguished Indian historian whose principal area of study is ancient India. She is the author of numerous substantial books including the popular classic, A History of India, and is currently Professor Emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University.In 2005, she declined the Padma Bhushan awarded by the Indian Government. Thapar had declined the Padma Bhushan on an earlier occasion, in 1992. To the President, she explained the reason for turning down the award thus: “I only accept awards from academic institutions or those associated with my professional work, and not state awards”

Controversy- Thapar’s appointment to the Library of Congress’s Kluge Chair was opposed in an online petition bearing more than 2,000 signatures, on the grounds that she was a “Marxist and anti-Hindu” and it was “waste of US money” to support a leftist. In 2002, the Indian coalition government led by the BJP changed the school textbooks on social sciences and history. Romila Thapar, who was the author of the textbook on Ancient India for class VI, objected to the changes made without her permission that, for example, deleted passages on eating of beef in ancient times, and the formulation of the caste system. Internationally and academically, she is very highly regarded. In India, she is criticized by some groups, apparently for writing a rationalist form of History that doesn’t suit the needs of Hindu nationalists and religious heads.

Ayesha Kidwai

She is a Professor of Linguistics at the Centre of Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her work on understanding unique system of grammar – especially Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu, Santali, Bangla and Malayalam has led to newer theories in universal grammar. Professor Ayesha Kidwai is Infosys Prize awardee. Prof. Kidwai has helped raise the respectability and significance of the field of theoretical linguistics by providing leadership and mentorship to young linguists in India. She has consistently stressed on the political and cultural importance of the study of India’s linguistic diversity.Kidwai was member of the Saksham Committee that presented a report to the University Grants Commission regarding gender sensitisation in UGC affiliated colleges and has been vocal about her opposition to caste and gender discrimination and communal polarisation in university campuses.

Controversy- She has been seen as the face of the JNUTA (JNU Teacher’s Association) voicing her solidarity with the students and protesting against the arrest of JNUSU president, Kanhaiya Kumar. In her various articles and speeches she has questioned the credibility of central government.

Prof K.Y. Ratnam

He is an Associate Professor at University of Hyderabad. He has presented Papers in many International and National Seminars and got a South Asia Visiting Fellowship from East-West Centre Washington.He has had several dalit M Phil and PhD students successfully defend their work under his guidance over the past two decades. And his gentle and persuasive force towards rational thinking in the anti-caste struggles is too well known in the university and the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too.

Controversy- Prof. Ratnam has been one among the SC/ST faculty who have extended whole hearted support to the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice in HCU formed after Rohith Vemula’s suicide two months ago. In the melee which led to his arrest, Ratnam was seen and heard pleading with the police not to be too harsh with the students. Dalit professor K.Y Ratnam and Dr.Tathagata Sengupta were suspended by VC AppaRao in the pretext of their illegal arrest.He has been part of a recent collective initiative that published a volume analyzing and criticizing the attempt by the RSS to appropriate the thought of Ambedkar.

SAR Geelani

Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani, of Kashmiri origin taught Arabic at a college in Delhi during the time of his first arrest. He openly supports the idea of Kashmiri self-determination. Geelani was a suspect in the 2001 Parliament attacks along with Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hussain and Navjot Sandhu.Geelani’s conviction led to a “massive legal and civic campaign”, claimed Outlook in an oped. Geelani was tortured in police custody and was branded as guilty by the media. His wife and children were illegally detained.

After a relentless battle fought by his legal team, the Delhi High Court set aside his conviction and acquitted Geelani on all charges — the court found there was “no evidence to the effect that Gilani was maintaining personal or telephonic contacts with any of the deceased terrorists. There is no evidence of any participative acts in connection with or in pursuance of the conspiracy”as reported by P Venkatrama Reddi and PP Naolekar in Outlook.

GN Saibaba

Born in Andhra’s Amalapuram in 1967, Saibaba hailed from a poor family. A consistently stellar performance in class ensured scholarships throughout. Saibaba finished at SKBR College at the top of the university. Later, as an activist of the All India People’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF), he travelled over 200,000 km to speak in support of liberation movements in Kashmir and the north east and campaign for dalit and adivasi rights.

He taught at Sri Venkateswara for three months in 2003 before moving to RLA. In 2005, AIPRF evolved into the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) accused of being a Maoist front.

Controversy– Saibaba was raided by a joint team of the Delhi and the Maharashtra police after citing him as “an urban contact” for Maoists, and was asked to appear before the Maharashtra Police “out of Delhi or at Nagpur”.Days after the raid, he took a dig at the investigation launched into the use of his residence “as a place for the deposit of stolen property”. He questioned the manner in which the raid was carried out and alleged that the raiding team involved members of NIA and had planted certain objects, which would later be used to frame charges against him, reported the Hindu. Saibaba was arrested in New Delhi by the Maharashtra Police for his alleged links with Maoists. He was granted bail by the High Court.

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