IIMC prof. quits saying govt ‘targeted’ him for supporting Vemula, JNU protests; I&B Min denies

Sengupta accused the IIMC authorities of reducing the institution into a "hand-maiden of a vicious, undemocratic and partisan regime".
IIMC prof. quits saying govt ‘targeted’ him for supporting Vemula, JNU protests; I&B Min denies
IIMC prof. quits saying govt ‘targeted’ him for supporting Vemula, JNU protests; I&B Min denies
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A senior faculty member of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) on Friday resigned alleging that he was "targeted" by the I&B Ministry for supporting the protests over Dalit student Rohith Vemula's suicide and JNU and FTII issues.

Amit Sengupta, an Associate Professor in the department of English Journalism, quit after an order was issued transferring him to the premier media school's campus in Odisha's Dhenkanal district, which he slammed as a "political decision".

Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials said that a recent inquiry into incidents at the premier journalism school by I&B Ministry Joint Secretary Mihir Kumar Singh showed that Sengupta had in a Facebook post asked students to carry out protests after Vemula's suicide.

In his resignation letter, Sengupta said that he had been "targeted" as he "supported the solidarity protest for Rohith Vemula (of Hyderabad Central University) in the campus, organised independently by students of IIMC in which other faculty members too participated." 

"I have been targeted also because I supported the JNU and FTII students," he added.

Sengupta said that he was "proud" of standing up for Vemula and would continue to do so.

"This is my constitutional right. I think grave injustice has been done to him and the students of Hyderabad Central University. I will always stand and fight for Dalit rights," he said.

He said the JNU and FTII "struggles" are glorious and the country will enrich itself with the great leap of imagination and the brilliant content of the peaceful, democratic debate the students and faculty of these great institutions have generated.

Countering the allegations levelled by Sengupta, I&B Ministry officials said Sengupta has been moved to the institute's Dhenkanal branch till further orders only because of shortage of staff.

On January 19, they claimed, Sengupta had in a post said "Hello IIMC students; protests all over by students, why is IIMC silent? Put a poster at least. Also surely, the suicide note. I am ready to join you, I promise." 

A student of IIMC had then objected to the post, accusing Sengupta of trying to politicise the campus and disturbing harmony, I&B officials added. A verbal altercation between the student and Sengupta had also taken place, they added.

Asked about the charges related to his posts on Facebook, Sengupta said views expressed on social media fell on his personal domain and was his "constitutional right".

IIMC had been recently in the news after a student had posted certain "casteist" remarks on a social media platform, after which the I&B Ministry had asked its Joint Secretary to look into the matter.

Significantly, in his report, the official has proposed a set of institutional mechanism including a code of conduct for teachers and employees that among other things included a "ban" on political activity by the faculty on the campus.

In his resignation letter, Sengupta flayed the decision to transfer him accusing the IIMC authorities of reducing the institution into a "hand-maiden of a vicious, undemocratic and partisan regime".

Sengupta, who has worked for leading dailies and magazines in the past, said the move to transfer him "arbitrarily" was part of a "larger witch-hunt" against intellectual freedom and to "target and eliminate individuals who this regime has declared as enemies for reasons only they know".

"In IIMC, I have perhaps taken the maximum number of lectures/workshops, like many of my learned faculty members. I have taught my students that they will never do journalism which professes xenophobia, casteism, sexism, racism, and communalism.

"That they should be objective and impartial. Also, that they should have open-ended, non-dogmatic and independent minds and stand for truth and public interest, come what may.

I presume I am paying a price for that," he wrote.

Sengupta said that it was an "honour" for him as a former JNUSU president to address the open air gathering of faculty and students of JNU and that he was proud being part of the "great intellectual and political tradition" of JNU.

IIMC, which comes under by the I&B Ministry, had earlier this week, ordered the expulsion of the student from its hostel for three weeks who had posted "offensive and insulting" remarks on social media against students belonging to Dalit community.

Another student, a Dalit and a complainant in the case, has also been expelled from the IIMC hostel for a week for allegedly using "indecent and vulgar language" against a faculty member on a WhatsApp group.

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