IIT (BHU) Varanasi has invited controversy after it prematurely removed Magsaysay award winner and social activist, Sandeep Pandey, from the list of its guest faculty. Pandey, who received the Magsaysay award in 2002, was removed after the institute accused him of being a ‘Naxalite’ and preaching anti-social ideologies to the students.

Pagalguy reached out to IIT BHU VC, G C Tripathi, to get his side of the story. Despite repeated attempts, he remained unavailable for comments. IIT BHU Director, Prof. Sangal, was not in office when we tried to speak to him. We shall update the story with IIT BHU’s side of the story when they respond.

Prof. Pandey spoke with Pagalguy at length regarding his dismissal. Excerpts of the interview:.

How do you feel on being branded a Naxalite?

Obviously the charges are baseless. I have been branded as a Naxalite by the IIT BHU officials. If I’m involved in illegal and anti-national activities, why don’t they register an FIR against me and send me to jail? It’s just that they feel threatened by my presence in BHU because of my connection with the students and communities around BHU. So basically, this is an ideological battle.

Are you planning to go to court to contest your premature termination?

I will give a fitting reply. I may not fight for my job because it’s not of a permanent nature. It was anyways going to end in July. My annual contract kept being renewed for the last two years and this was my third year. I’d have liked to continue, but it’s not possible if they make it difficult for me and accuse me with charges like this. I shall try to get the minutes of the meeting in which the charges of being ‘anti-national’ have been levelled against me. If I can, I will certainly take them to task and file a defamation suit against the BHU officials responsible for this.

Was there any particular incident which triggered this action against you?

Earlier this year, around 40 contract employees of BHU were expelled, and I had gone to support them when they were organising a protest. The Vice Chancellor didn’t like it; he got angry and even threatened me that he would stop my entry to the campus. I’m not surprised, they were trying to remove me since this government came to power.

How did your students react to the decision of your removal from IIT BHU?

I have been receiving messages from the past students who have not seen me but know me and my work. People are expressing solidarity and it’s a reward for me. I will continue my work, even without being in the official position. It’s not a big loss for me, and I will continue the ideological battle.

You say that the ideology you consider yourself closest to is Gandhian. How does it feel to be accused of a completely opposite ideology?

It is not shocking, because these are the same people involved in anti-peace movements across the country. There is an ideology which tries to divide and is responsible for sowing seeds of an imbalanced society, and its followers have succeeded in getting me removed from IIT BHU.

What is your message to the students at IIT BHU?

Students should contribute to society in a constructive manner and be aware of divisive forces. They should work towards building a society which is more equitable, where communal harmony is preserved. Essentially, a society where every individual gets to live with dignity.

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