Romila Thapar, JNU
Romila ThaparWikicommons

In an unprecedented move, the Jawaharlal Nehru University administration asked Romila Thapar, who is a professor emeritus, an honorary position held for life at the university, to submit her CV. She is not the only professor emeriti who has been asked to submit her work in the last couple of years. All the professors emeriti above 75 years of age have been asked by the university administration to submit their work in last two years so that their work can be "evaluated".

Besides Thapar, other respected professors emeriti include some of the most learned people in their subjects including theoretical physicist R. Rajaraman and sociologist T.K. Oommen, who will also be "evaluated" on the basis of their "work". Thapar has been a vehement critic of Modi government's policies and is a well-known historian with several acclaimed books to her credit. She was offered professor emeritus position just after her superannuation in 1993. The current JNU administration's decision is seriously questionable as the position held by Romila Thapar and other senior professors are completely honorary in nature with no financial implications for the institution. Such professors pursue academic work and supervise research students.

JNU asking for the works done by these professors has evoked sharp emotions from fraternity and professors. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA) called the decision by JNU admin "politically motivated". "The insult to Prof. Romila Thapar is just another politically motivated step in this regard, motivated no doubt by the active and steadfast support and inspiration she has provided to the teachers and students of JNU in their fight to keep the university in line with the vision and ideas embedded into its foundations," said JNUTA in a statement. The JNU admin's notice to Thapar comes from a resolution of JNU's Executive Council on August 23, 2018, which revised the guidelines for designation as an emeritus professor.

Jawaharlal Nehru University
JNU Main buildingCredit: Reuters

As per the new guideline, "Once appointed, E.C, as an appointing authority, will review the continuation or otherwise for each existing emeritus professor after attainment of her/his age of 75 years by considering her/his health status, willingness, availability, university needs etc. so that more positions will be available to other potential candidates." However, JNUTA argued, "Romila Thapar was designated professor emerita in 1993, a full 25 years before this "misplaced guideline was formulated".

In a tweet, R Subrahmanyam, HRD secretary, said that he spoke to JNU VC over the issue and denied the news to remove any professors. "There is no move to discontinue professor emeritus status to anyone, especially respected academicians; only provisions of the ordnance are being followed," his tweet read.