A simple seminar titled ‘Globalization and the Role of Industries in Tribal Development of India’ at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy has kicked up a controversy.
The reason: Speaker VC Kothari is a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). He is also joint secretary of Friends of Tribals Society, Mumbai.
On Monday, he addressed second-year students in MA Development Studies because the topic is part of their optional paper.
On January 15, soon after the lecture was announced, 18 senior professors sent a letter of protest over email to the institute’s faculty and students. “We must protect our liberal/secular public spaces,” they wrote. “This (means) that we must provide opportunities to everyone to voice their concerns. But there are some extremes, and we must not fall prey to them. The VHP, Bajrang Dal, SIMI and JUD cannot be our teachers.”
“Extremists are taking over almost all public spaces and have made inroads even in to our living rooms. This necessitates protecting at least our classrooms,” they said.
The institute’s director S Parasuraman defended the decision. “In my opinion, this is an important part of discourse and debate — something an academic environment must do,” he said. “It is a dialogue and not politics. A lot of people come to talk, and this is healthy for an institution.”