Attempt to dishonour me, says Romila Thapar after JNU seeks CV to review emerita status

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Published: September 2, 2019 11:04:20 AM

Romila Thapar retired from JNU in 1991 and is currently Professor Emerita at the university. She is the author of several books including the popular volume "A History of India". She has twice been offered the Padma Bhushan award but has declined it both times.

Romila ThaparThe JNU has asked noted historian Romila Thapar to send her CV to review emerita status.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has asked noted historian Romila Thapar to submit her CV in order to review if she can continue as Professor Emerita. Romila has served as a professor at JNU for several decades before she was given the position as an emeritus at JNU. Speaking to The Indian Express, Romila, 87, on Sunday said that the move was an “attempt to dishonour her” since she had been critical of the changes introduced by the JNU administration. The historian said that she had responded to the letter a few weeks after receiving it, but has not heard back the administration since.

She said that the honorary position is conferred for life and nowhere in the world is it re-evaluated once conferred. “It is a move to try and dishonour someone who has been critical of the changes that have been introduced in JNU by the present administration. I have been quite vocal in saying that their ways of functioning are detrimental to an institution such as a university,” she told the daily.

The JNU letter of conferment stated quite clearly that “the position is honorary and is for life”, she said. Romila said that it is only status and there can be as many emeritus professors as the university wants. “I also asked the university to inform me of the methods that would be used by the committee concerned to evaluate my work,” she said.

Romila further said that the letter indicated that the “university administration is unaware of the meaning of an emeritus professor”. She quipped that it was rather laughable if the people in the administration think taking away the emeritus status will affect her reputation as a historian or academic work.

Romila obtained her graduation degree from Panjab University in English literature. She obtained a second bachelor’s honors degree and a doctorate in Indian history under AL Basham from the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London in 1958.

Wondering what the university will gain by doing this, she said, “But the freedom of thought and the right to question the world around us, which we encouraged, now meets with objections. Our students as professionals ranged from… scholars and researchers, many bureaucrats and media professionals, to some current Cabinet ministers.”

Romila retired from JNU in 1991 and is currently Professor Emerita at the university. She is the author of several books including the popular volume “A History of India”. She has twice been offered the Padma Bhushan award but has declined it both times.

The move to asked Romila to submit her CV comes after JNU’s Executive Council (EC) in August 2018 revised the rules and regulations. According to the new rules, a committee appointed by the council will review the continuation of emeritus professors after they turn 75. The registrar in July wrote to Romila and asked her to submit her CV to re-evaluate whether she should continue as professor emerita.

On Sunday, the administration issued a statement saying it had written to those 75 years and above to “know their availability and their willingness to continue their association with the university”. It clarified that writing letters as per the ordinance is not for discontinuation but for an informed review by the executive council, the highest statutory body of the University.

The statement said that the university has the right to review the academic contributions of the emeritus professors. “They even have the right to rescind such appointments,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association on Sunday termed as “politically motivated” the administration’s letter to Romila. The association called it a “deliberate attempt to try and dishonour those who have been critical of the current administration”. It demanded a formal retraction of the move and said a personal apology be issued to Romila.

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