The government denied on Friday any attempt to remove Amartya Sen from Nalanda University after the Nobel laureate withdrew his candidature for a second term as chancellor of the institution alleging political interference.
In an open letter to the university’s governing board, Sen said he has decided not to stay on when his current term expires in July because it had become clear that the government did not want him to continue in the chair.
He said President Mukherjee, who has the final say over the appointment, has failed to reply to the board’s unanimous recommendation that he remain chancellor, though it was sent over a month ago.
“This delay, as well as the uncertainty involved, is leading, in effect, to a decisional gap, which is not helpful to Nalanda University’s governance and its academic progress.”
The foreign ministry, which monitors the multi-nation institution, attributed the delay in the approval process to “non-receipt of final minutes” from last month’s board meeting.
Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said no attempt was made to curtail his tenure.
He said the draft minutes contained two options: either to continue with Sen or President Pranab Mukherjee, the university’s Visitor, could seek three shortlisted names from the board to appoint a successor.
Sen said the minutes were sent a fortnight ago and virtually everyone has confirmed receiving them, except the ministry.
The economist has had an uneasy relationship with the ruling BJP, more so after he came out against Narendra Modi ahead of last year’s Lok Sabha elections.
The government clarification came amid criticism by opposition parties for “dumping” a Bharat Ratna from the post. “Sen is a national treasure, and to be treated so shabbily is really unfortunate,” Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said.
Sen spearheaded the revival of Nalanda University in Bihar, one of the world's oldest seats of learning, taking over as chancellor in 2012 when it reopened.
He is the second key member associated with the university to opt out after former President APJ Abdul Kalam declined to continue as Visitor in 2011.