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South Asian University suspends four teachers for ‘inciting’ students’ stir

Four professors from Delhi's South Asian University (SAU) have been suspended following allegations of misconduct.

Four professors from Delhi's South Asian University (SAU) have been suspended following allegations of misconduct. The professors, namely Dr Snehashish Bhattacharya, Dr Srinivas Burra, Dr Irfanullah Farooqi, and Dr Ravi Kumar, have been accused of inciting students against the university's interests, which is a violation of the university's code of conduct. The suspensions come after a series of student protests that occurred several months ago, where students demanded an increase in the monthly stipend for Master's and PhD programs.

The suspension letter, dated 16 June, refers to 'clauses 7.8 and 38' of the SAU regulations, granting the university president the authority to suspend professors for misconduct. The letter states that a further investigation is underway and instructs the four teachers not to leave the station without permission, vacate their offices, return their office computers and identity cards, and register their attendance on all working days in the offices of their respective deans. The letter was accessed by ThePrint, a news organization.

One of the suspended faculty members, who preferred to remain anonymous, expressed to The Indian Express, "This appears to be a targeted action against four individuals within the university who were simply trying to convey the administration to resolve the issues amicably." Another faculty member, also suspended, stated, "The university has accused the faculty members of instigating student protests, failing to fulfill their duties appropriately, and being associated with a Marxist study circle."

The student protests began in September 2022 when the university administration reduced the stipend for master's students from Rs 5,000 to Rs 3,000. The students demanded an increase to Rs 7,000 instead of a reduction. Although the university initially revised the stipend to Rs 4,000 and later reinstated it to Rs 5,000, the student protests continued. However, the university refused to meet the demand for a Rs 7,000 stipend.

In November, the university issued orders for the expulsion, rustication, or suspension of five students. In response, 15 faculty members sent an email to the university community expressing concerns about the actions taken by the university administration, which they claimed were implemented without following due process. In May of this year, the university established a fact-finding committee to investigate the involvement of faculty members in the protests.