Mumbai: TISS students say professor 'sacked abruptly' for political leanings

While institute director says the professor’s contract had ended, students allege that this is the second sudden termination at TISS

The termination of a faculty member is creating a controversy at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), with students alleging that Professor Sanober Keshwar was sacked for her left-leaning political stance. However, the authorities say her contract ended.

Prof Sanober Keshwar
Prof Sanober Keshwar

Students are airing their allegations through the social media campaign #StandwithSanober. They claim she was given no prior notice before being terminated from her position as assistant professor from the School of Social Work.

“It was so abrupt that one day when she tried to log into her official ID, she was denied access. When she picked up her desk’s landline to inquire about it, it had been disconnected. The institute did not give her any official communication,” said a student.

Students are connecting this incident with the termination of Prof Bela Bhatia, who was allegedly also abruptly asked to leave the institute. While the professors were temporary faculty, students allege their left-leaning ideology led to the decision to sack them. They are going to write a letter to the authorities demanding Keshwar’s reinstatement and have started a signature campaign as well.

Alumnus Kritika Singh said, “In 2014, Prof Keshwar had arranged a talk and invited an international personality from the trade union movement. She thought of extending it for everyone, so that more and more people could take advantage of the opportunity.”

Another alumnus, Nevin Thomas, said, “This is happening in multiple colleges of repute in the country, wherein there is some sort of force that wants to remove teachers who voice opinions on certain sections of the society, especially the marginalised sections.”

A former faculty member at the TISS, Shrinath Jayanti, said, “Allegations by students cannot be completely denied. But Prof Keshwar was among the temporary staff, so the institute could take this step. There is great uncertainty with such temporary appointments.”

'Her contract ended'
Speaking to mid-day, TISS director Dr S Parsuraman said, “If the contract is prepared with an end date and if there is no discussion before the said date, it means the contract is going to end. There remains no question of any prior notice. Prof Keshwar’s regularity was not as per the requirement of the job and so the contract was not renewed.” He added, “An issue is being created unnecessarily. It is a democratic institute and there cannot be pressure from any external bodies to take any decision on appointments of the faculty. If they are claiming so, then they should prove it.”

He further said, “Certain temporary appointments are made in any organisation. However, eventually, a full-time appointment replaces it. With the fund crunch, the institute cannot continue with both arrangements.”

Talking about the social media rage, he said, “If there was any problem, the concerned people could have approached the authorities. What is the motive of directly opening up in public?”

He also spoke about Prof Bela Bhatia, and said, “She was never on our pay roll per se. She needed a place to continue her research and the institute has been extending support to people with extensive knowledge in certain areas to help them continue their work by being a fellow with us.”

Professor says

When mid-day contacted Prof Sanober Keshwar, she said, “I am currently out of station and busy with certain personal responsibilities, because of which I am not able to focus on the issue.” Keshwar later added, “What has happened is between me and the Institute and I have no desire to go public with it. Please respect this.”

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