It all started from a letter by Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad’s (ABVP) general secretary Shreehari Borikar. Borikar wrote to Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) over a year back, where he complained against Dr. Charvak, a member of faculty at the Department of Mass Communication of Assam University, Silchar – a central university, claiming his appointment was ‘illegal’.
In what could only be explained as political upper handedness on academic institutions, and a disgracefully admitted one at that, the university terminated Charvak – an associate professor in November this year. He wasn’t given any explanation for the extreme move, nor was he given any chance to defend himself.
But before even a month could pass, the University unilaterally withdrew the termination order and asked him to resume services. What happened in the meantime was a writ petition with the Gauhati High Court.
For all it may seem, the ABVP had more than one stake to play. Borikar wrote to Union HRD minister on May 16, 2015 claiming Dr. Charvak’s appointment was ‘illegal’.
No major steps were apparently taken by Smriti Irani, who held the HRD portfolio at the time. It started rolling after incumbent HRD minister Prakash Javadekar assumed charge of the ministry; the University Grants Commission (UGC) asked Vice Chancellor to provide ‘certain information…..of alleged irregular appointment’ in a letter date November 26, 2016 and cited UGC regulations from 2010.
As per the UGC letter, Vice Chancellor Dilip Chandra Nath formed a four-member committee headed by senior professor RR Dhamala on October 24 to review Charvak’s alleged illegal appointment along with few other faculty members of the University. The enquiry committee was asked to submit report to the Vice Chancellor by November 25, 2017.
Some report might have been filed but there is no evidence of any sort for either of the possibilities. What is known for certain is that on November 28, afternoon at 4:15 PM, that Assam University, Silchar handed over a letter of termination to Dr. Charvak.
The letter said his appointment letter, which happens to be nine years and four months old, was ‘illegal’. It carried no explanation for the order, neither indication of any scope of self-defense for the teacher.
Following a few confused days, Charvak filed a writ petition with the Gauhati High Court, challenging the university’s termination order on December 06.
Lucky for the dejected teacher, the Court said in its first hearing on the petition on December 08 that it was “deemed appropriate that the records of the proceeding be verified by this Court”.
Assam University authorities earlier filed a caveat with the court but after it summoned documents and enquiry committee report for firing the teacher, it chose to step back. Instead of submitting report of the enquiry committee to the Court, Assam University withdrew its termination order on December 13. Dr. Charvak was asked to resume services with immediate effect, which he readily agreed to.
Now, if local media reports from Silchar city of Assam were to be believed, Charvak has been an egalitarian rationalist.
He served as a journalist with Dainik Ganashakti – a West Bengal-based daily before joining the Indian Information Service (IIS). He has been instrumental in starting news programming at Doordarshan Kendra in Agartala apart from a successful stint at DD News and All India Radio in Itanagar and Kohima.
Having come from a journalistic background and free thinking advocate, Charvak has been rather infamous among ABVP and its other fellow affiliate organizations, more so for suspected left-leaning attitude.
Well, if you weren’t satisfied yet, no worries. The notification issued by Registrar of the University on October 24 on forming four-member committee over Dr. Charvak’s case said it would have to ‘review the matter on case to case basis…..as per the complaint raised by Shri Shreehari Borikar, National General Secretary, ABVP’.
After the rollback of termination order, the High Court closed Charvak’s writ petition.
The problem that still continues to linger is the question if universities and institutions of higher education can be bullied by politics or politically supported organizations.
Kushal Deb, a former student of Assam University, Silchar and of Dr. Charvak says local ABVP leaders were targeting the teacher for quite some time. “Charvak Sir is known for his rationalist outlook to life. They (ABVP) complained against Sir through their leader Shreehari Borikar”, Deb said.
Arghadeep Baruah, who is also a former student of the university said he started studying mass communication with an interest on film-making and editing. “Charvak sir changed my take on a number of things in his classes. He is someone who can influence students – a lot”, Baruah said. He currently works at a private firm in Gurgaon.
Meanwhile, the Assam University Teachers Association (AUTA) has come out in protest against the university’s faux pas with termination drama. Posters were found denouncing the University’s Executive Council (EC) and demanded the authorities to ‘stop circulating misinformation’.
Later this month, Federation of Central University Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA) issued a statement and said, “This kind of interference in the day-to-day functioning of central universities by the MHRD at the behest of the student wing of the ruling party has led to much turbulence and turmoil in universities such as Hyderabad Central University, Central University of Haryana etc”.
Asked about his take on the entire issue, Dr. Charvak declined to comment. His counsel Sabyasachi Chatterjee was reported to have told the media that the termination was due to “political intolerance to his rationalist positions”. The lawyer added that they might consider further legal steps if Charvak was targeted on any other pretext at any other time.
Congress leader and MP from Silchar Sushmita Dev said the “University administration, UGC and the ministry shamefully bowed down to political pressure”. In a Facebook post, Dev said the incident showed ‘political intolerance’ in the academia.
The office of the Vice Chancellor remained unresponsive to phone calls from this correspondent. The ABVP office at Silchar refused to comment on the subject as well.