Academicians from across the country expressed their solidarity with Dr Gilbert Sebastian, an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations and Politics,Central University of Kerala (CUK), Kasarkode who was allegedly threatened by right wing for his opinion on fascism.
Gilbert Sebastian was said to have commented the Sangh Parivar as a proto-fascist organisation while taking an online class on 'Fascism and Nazism' for the first semester students held on last Monday (19th April).
In a statement signed by around 30 academicians and social activists, it said that the actions of university administration against the professor is "irresponsible" and "biased decision".
The statement condemned "UGC and Ministry of Human Resources Development(MHRD) for taking action against the professor for simply exercising his right to free speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution."
Saying that "Under the Modi government, the country has witnessed an explicit suppression of academic freedom post 2014, the statement accused that "the Sangh Parivar and their stooges has been trying to curb discussions and conversations thereby making classrooms less academic and more convenient to exercise their agenda of hatred".
"Classrooms are meant to be platforms for discussions and interventions regarding the socio- political conditions of the country. But the Sangh Parivar use educational institutions as a platform to spread the Hindutva terror," said the statement
The signatories to the statement include renowned poet Dr. K. Sachithanandan, Feminst Scholar Dr. J. Devika (Centre for Development Studies), P. K Abdul Rahiman, (Secretary, Teachers' Collective of the University of Madras, Dr. Jenny Rowena(University of Delhi) Dr. Ashraf Kunnummal (University of Johannesburg), Dr. Walter Fernandas (Director North Eastern Social Research centre, Guwahati), Dr A.K. Ramakrishnan (Centre for West Asian Studies,JNU), and many other from different universities across the country.
According to reports, Vice-chancellor of CUK, Prof Venkateshwarlu have received a letter from the UGC to look into the matter apart a complaint from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad(ABVP) against the Assitant professor.
Last week, In a letter to CUK vice-chancellor Prof H Venkateshwarlu, ABVP had demanded action against Sebastian.
In the complaint, The ABVP's CUK unit said that "no serious studies or research have identified India as a fascist country. Only certain anti-national elements are trying to label India as a fascist country".
The organisation added that it would launch mass protests if the vice-chancellor did not take action against him
What the Gilbert Sebastian said during his class
According to a report by The New Indian Express, Gilbert, in one of the PowerPoint slides said that "The RSS and its affiliate organisation, together called as the Sangh Parivar meaning the Sangh family (including the BJP) in India can also be considered proto-fascist," .
"Proto-fascist movements are those influenced by classical fascist organisations"
In the online class held on Monday(19th April) , he reportedly said Spain under General Franco, Portugal under Salazar, Argentina under Juan Peron, Chile under Pinochet, the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the Hutu ultranationalist and supremacist movement of Rwanda in the early 1990s could be considered as proto-fascist, and posed a question whether India under Narendra Modi since 2014 was one.
The report also says that the assistant professor allegedly criticized the government for exporting vaccines at a time when the country's vaccine needs were not met. "That shows their patriotism," he said, says a report by The New Indian Express.
His PowerPoint slides and the audio of the class were made public later.
Meanwhile, Gilbert declined to comment reportedly saying he was not authorised to speak to news media.
At the same time, According to the report, a few faculty members in the Central University supports Gilbert saying that "in a university class, teachers and students are free to take any position".
However, Vice-chancellor Prof Venkateshwarlu said that he will be constituting a committee of senior professors to look into the complaint.