On Saturday, Sept. 9, several online news websites, which cover news related to Jamia Millia Islamia, reported a controversial incident involving a Jamia professor at the Center for Management Studies.
According to these news portals — namely, TwoCircles.net, BeyondHeadlines.in and OkhlaTimes.com — on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Professor Prahalad K. Basu while taking an MBA class at the center, went on a tirade denouncing Jamia “as a third class minority university” and branded the students as “idiots” and “illiterate.”
He is quoted to have allegedly said: “This is a third class minority university … you are idiots … you all are illiterate … why am I wasting my time here?”
These reports go on further to allege that he later picked on a burqa-wearing girl and made her cry in class, by allegedly saying to her: “you black head girl, why you are wearing this dress while it is being banned in some countries.”
Although the professor’s remarks were offensive, to say the least, some of his former students have played the situation down by saying that this kind of behavior is not out of character for Professor Basu. An unnamed former student of his was quoted in the Okhla Times to have said: “This is something that was expected of him. A highly educated professor, he is short tempered and known for using abusive language.”
However, what made his statements on that day significant is the fact that they were made after the Delhi High Court bomb blast, which occurred earlier the same day.
There is no evidence to suggest his statements were made in light of the bomb blast, but that is apparently how it got viewed.
Remarks which probably would have been dismissed on any other day, like his students have been apparently doing until now, all of a sudden seemed to be communally tinted.
Students angry and upset by his remarks, agitated and wrote a letter of complaint to the acting director of the center, Professor U.M. Amin, demanding disciplinary action against the professor.
Reportedly, the director resolved the matter by asking the students to not to attend his class.
The matter was resolved for the students in question, apparently; however, the issue did not die down for other students in the university.
Among others, the Students Islamic Organization (SIO) rallied on the issue and demanded the professor to be sacked from his position at Jamia.
Jamia Takes Action Against the Professor
On Monday, Sept. 12, Jamia sent out a press release stating that they had taken a serious note of the inflammatory comments made by the professor which were deemed “personal and communal against students and the University causing deep anguish among students and faculty.”
Taking cognizance of this fact, it further stated that Jamia will prosecute Prof. Basu for “libel” and “terminate all future association with him.”
What is so blatantly obvious in this entire episode, was the absence of Prof. Basu’s voice. Everyone had a say in the press except Professor Basu. Nobody was reporting what the professor had to say on the matter.
It could not be known whether he was denying the allegations or not?
And a lot of people online expressed the need to hear the other side of the story before the professor was figuratively burned at the stake. People, in all fairness, wanted to hear what the professor had to say on the matter before they came to a conclusion about him.
Professor Basu Speaks to Jamia Journal
Wanting to hear all sides to the story, I, along with few of his former students, went to see the professor at his residence in Noida, on Monday evening, just hours after the news of his apparent termination of service from Jamia was made public by the university.
Although the professor welcomed us into his home and treated us with gracious hospitality, he refused to speak to us about the incident on the record.
Professor Basu made it clear to me, right in the beginning of our conversation that he did not want me to report on anything from our conversation with him. He even refused to get his picture taken.
He spoke to us for at least two hours on a myriad of topics, including the incident in question, but again, did not give me permission to report or quote him on anything he had to say.
He even responded to the allegations leveled against him, and yet, sadly, I cannot report on what he said.
I will say this much though: Professor Basu believes that in the end, the facts of the matter will be known, and the truth will set the record straight.
However, it seems, he does not wish to play any role in order for that to happen.
He gave me no reasons on why he did not wish to speak to the press; besides maybe his belief that the Indian press is a “third rate” press. A comment seemingly made with no conviction.
Every other thing it seemed was of “third rate” or “third class” to him.
Based on our conversation it seems, he probably did say what he is being accused of; but just like his comment on the Indian press, it was probably not made with the conviction of belief. Neither did it seem to me that he was a bigot who held anti-Muslim and anti-Islam views.
The man seems to have an eccentric personality, and just like some of his former students have said, I feel it is in Professor Basu’s nature to make offensive statements which he probably doesn’t mean.
It is unfortunate that he did not wish to speak on the issue much and clear my doubts. And it is beyond unfortunate that he did not wish to speak on the record.