Students As 'Hostages'? Economics Department At Ashoka University Threatens Strike Over Resignation Of Controversial Professor
Scholar who claimed to show 'democratic backsliding' in India resigned from position.
Rather than defend his paper, economics department faculty threatens to go off-duty.
Prof. Sabyasachi Das, who served as an Assistant Professor at Ashoka University, recently submitted his resignation to the University's Governing Body, which was accepted.
However, this had led to protests from the economics department at Ashoka.
Das' resignation came in the backdrop of a controversy around a paper written him, titled "Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy".
This is the abstract of the paper:
Democratic backsliding is a growing concern globally. This paper contributes to the discussion by documenting irregular patterns in 2019 general election in India and identifying whether they are due to electoral manipulation or precise control, i.e., incumbent party’s ability to precisely predict and affect win margins through campaigning. I compile several new datasets and present evidence that is consistent with electoral manipulation in closely contested constituencies and is less supportive of the precise control hypothesis. Manipulation appears to take the form of targeted electoral discrimination against India’s largest minority group – Muslims, partly facilitated by weak monitoring by election observers. The results present a worrying development for the future of democracy.
The claims made in the paper were strongly questioned by many on social media.
The most notable questions and observations came from author-scholar Nalin Mehta and owner of the Twitter handle, @saiarav.
The latter, through a detailed analysis, has claimed that the paper's conclusion of finding evidence of voter-deletion is backed by flimsy evidence. Not only this, there is a possibility that statistical output that could have been deemed unfavourable by Das was suppressed by him (Das).
Until the writing of this report, no counter or rebuttal to the specific questions raised by @Saiarav had been published by Das or his allies in the academia.
Amidst this, Das sent his resignation, which was accepted by the University.
The Economics Department of the University, however, has now issued an open letter threatening that unless the University decides to re-offer him the position unconditionally by 23 August, they would refuse to cooperate or resume their duties in the teaching departments.
Notably, none of the constituents of the department previously made any attempt at defending Prof. Sabyasachi's paper on merit, when it was under scrutiny.
With the issue gaining traction on social media, many pointed out the problem with the department's stand.
Rather than defend Das' paper on merit, the members of the Economics department at Ashoka have decided to take their teaching duties—and hence students—as virtual hostages.
Rather than clear Das' name, this step of the Economics department has probably strengthened the suspicions around his paper.
It has also provided a boost to those who argue that the academia in India functions on credentialism and as a tribe.
Till the writing of this report neither Das nor the Governing Body of Ashoka had responded to the open letter.
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