Gilbert Sebastian, Assistant Professor of Central University of Kerala, was suspended for calling RSS 'proto fascist'.

From left: Binoy Viswam, Gilbert Sebastian
news Controversy Sunday, May 23, 2021 - 13:21

CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has written to the Union government, asking them to revoke the suspension of Dr Gilbert Sebastian, Assistant Professor of Central University of Kerala (CUK). Dr Gilbert was suspended for calling the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent organisation of the BJP, ‘proto fascist’ in one of his lectures related with ‘Fascism and Nazism’. In the letter to Ramesh Pokhriyal, Minister of Education, Binoy Viswam pointed out that persecuting someone for criticising the government is indeed a feature of a ‘proto fascist’ regime.

The Assistant Professor was suspended on May 17 after ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, and Vinod Karuvarakund, a member of the national monitoring committee on education under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, filed a complaint. Calling out that suspension of the faculty as an attack on the academic freedom of teachers and students, Binoy Viswam said, “It is deeply worrying that the freedom of speech and thought is being curtailed in such a manner, especially within the walls  of an educational institution... Debate, dissent and intellectual production is the hallmark of university spaces. To persecute free thought and expression in these spaces is to signal the death of the institution.”

"It is also pertinent to observe that the persecution of people for espousing a view that may not find approval from the government is a distinctive feature of proto-fascist regimes, the subject of Dr Sebastian’s lecture," Binoy Viswam added. “Given these circumstances, I urge you to revoke the suspension of Dr Gilbert Sebastian and ensure that no coercive action is taken against him. Further, I hope that the Ministry of Education will take all measures to ensure that Universities remain spaces for critical thinking, free speech and knowledge production,” he said in the letter.

Many others including Congress MPs like Shashi Tharoor and Rajmohan Unnithan have also come out extending solidarity to Gilbert Sebastian. Rajmohan Unnithan had also written to Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal.

The controversial class, held online on April 19 was part of the syllabus on the paper ‘Conflict and Theories in Political Science’ for the students of the Department of International Relations and Political Science. In the class, while discussing global fascist governments in history, he had also posed a question to students ‘how is India under Narendra Modi?’ It has also now emerged that the University administration has in the past taken similar action against the professor. The University withheld two salary increments of Gilbert Sebastian for speaking against the expulsion of another professor.

Read: Kerala professor suspended for criticising right-wing politics: A targeted attack?

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