IIT Kanpur Case: Is Plagiarism Okay If You Are From The Right Caste?

IIT Kanpur Case: Is Plagiarism Okay If You Are From The Right Caste?

by Madhu Purnima Kishwar - Friday, October 18, 2019 11:45 AM IST
IIT Kanpur Case: Is Plagiarism Okay If You Are From The Right Caste?Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur.

This copy was written before the IIT Kanpur Board of Governors decided in mid-September that it would not revoke the PhD degree of Dr Subrahmanyam Saderla. The press note released by IIT Kanpur said, inter alia: “The Board decided that PhD Degree of Dr S Saderla will not be revoked and a corrigendum will be appended to the thesis by Dr S Saderla identifying the text that is common knowledge and identical to earlier theses. An appropriate advisory will be issued to Dr Saderla and his thesis supervisor by the Director.”

  • The issue is: “Did Dr Saderla plagiarise his M Tech and PhD theses?”

    This is an academic question, bereft of caste and not a matter of opinion or social justice.

    The answer to the question is, unfortunately, an unequivocal “Yes”.

India takes pride in its Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) as globally-celebrated centres of excellence. Indian taxpayer money goes into funding these institutes to compete with the best in the world. So when the media (see here, here) that 400 scholars, academics and activists from 16 countries, representing a mix of institutions and freelancers, have endorsed a statement of solidarity against the “caste-based discrimination and institutional harassment” of a Dalit academic from IIT Kanpur, Dr Subrahmanyam Saderla, one wondered whether another phony conspiracy was being cooked up fast and furious.

The campaign against IIT Kanpur arouses suspicion for the following reasons:

The only source of the petition is a report in The Indian Express. No original source or document has been cited. Surely, the signatories, eminent as they are, should know that a petition cannot be based on a news report.

#1: A motley group of academics in remotely placed foreign universities had joined hands with political activists, writers, dancers and filmmakers who arrogated to themselves the right to sit in judgement and demonise IIT Kanpur — one of the prime educational institutions of India — without even the pretence of seeking facts from the concerned institution, leave alone carrying out a thorough investigation into the matter.

#2: Even a casual glance at the list of signatories suggests that this could be a calculated move by forces hostile to India to use their Indian sepoys to defame and destroy the best of academic institutions in India in a manner similar to the CIA-backed puppets targeting Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2000. Most of these worthies have an established track record of being sympathetic to Breaking India Forces and the tukde-tukde gang.

#3: The most astounding name among the signatories is No 276: Robert Langdon, who is shown as Professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology at Harvard University. Anyone who has read the novels of Dan Brown will know that Langdon is a fictional character invented by Brown, and he figures as a lead character in novels like The Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons. (For the whole list of signatories read The Wire story with the list of signatories here. Also see screenshot below). It is interesting that Langdon emerged from a book to sign the petition to support one Dr Saderla in Kanpur. A new code, definitely.

IIT Kanpur Case: Is Plagiarism Okay If You Are From The Right Caste?

#4: Professional India/Hindu basher Arundhati Roy is leading this pack along with another professional India basher and Sonia Gandhi acolyte Noam Chomsky; they are accompanied by Mallika Sarabhai, Gita Hariharan, Gayatri Spivak Chakravarthy, and many such compulsive critics of the political party currently heading the government of India.

#5: The list of signatories also includes some well-known Urban Naxals such as Nalini Sundar, Ram Punyani, Achin Vanaik, Anand Teltumbde, Abhishek Atreya, Abhishek Dhar, and Nivedita Menon, among others.

#6: Most of the foreign academia signatories are repeat offenders willing to lend their names to any and every campaign against India. Examples: Alpa Shah, Dilip M Menon, Abhishek Bhattacharyya, Chandra Talpady Mohanty. Just as the leaders of this group — Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky — have no connection to science and technology, the majority of signatories are from the field of humanities and social sciences, with not even a cursory knowledge of what a PhD in aerospace engineering from an IIT entails. Such a ham-handed hit-job can only be unleashed by paid hirelings or those who are executing hidden agendas of powerful vested interests for ideological or monetary reasons.

#7: None of these signatories mention the significant fact that Dr Saderla had filed FIRs against four eminent professors of IIT Kanpur under the draconian SC/ST Atrocities Act. This law has sometimes been misused by unscrupulous persons as an instrument of blackmail and vendetta. Last year, the Supreme Court of India had struck down some of its provisions, and recommended amendments to remove easy-to-misuse provisions of the law. Are the local police of Kanpur, who need to act against anyone who is complained against under the SC/ST Act, competent to decide the veracity of the plagiarism charges and suitability of a candidate to hold an academic post? Sadly, the fear of a political backlash prevented the government of India from implementing the suggestions of the Supreme Court with regard to the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Under the above-mentioned Act (as with the domestic violence law and anti-rape law), mere allegations are enough to get an accused person arrested and jailed in the first instance.

Contrary to the foundational principle of Indian jurisprudence that a person is assumed innocent till proven guilty, under the SC/ST Act, the burden of proof is on the accused. Getting bail is sometimes extremely difficult in such cases. Proving one’s innocence in such cases can take years, if not decades. This means that the lives and academic careers of the accused professors would have been destroyed forever even if at the end of a trial they are declared innocent. And while this was on, everyone in IIT would be terrorised into silence by the harm the accuser could inflict on those who dare question his wrongdoing.

Since the names and political track records of the signatories against IIT Kanpur rang alarm bells in my mind, I decided to contact my old friends in IIT Kanpur and get their version of the story. I delineate below the facts provided by the academic community of IIT Kanpur and relevant documents in support of their version which prime facie indicate that Dr Saderla could have used the SC/ST Atrocities Act to escape scrutiny of the charges of outright plagiarism.

Given all these implications, I urge every Swarajya reader to give careful attention to the following facts as provided to me by reliable sources in IIT Kanpur.

The IIT Kanpur version: This case is not about caste. It is about cheating. Let’s look at facts.

Subrahmanyam Saderla was appointed assistant professor on 1 January 2018 in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, under a Special Recruitment Drive (for SC/ST/OBC/PwD) in IIT Kanpur. On 14 March 2019, IIT Kanpur’s highest academic body — the Senate — pronounced him guilty of plagiarism in his doctoral thesis and decided that his thesis should be withdrawn and recommended to the Board of Governors of the institute that his PhD be revoked. This decision triggered a media protest alleging that a Dalit professor’s degree was being withdrawn because he had complained about being harassed on account of his caste by some IIT professors.

Without any investigation into the academic document and little knowledge of technical subjects, a media campaign has been orchestrated to question and protest against the expertise of the institution to judge whether a technical document of research is plagiarised or not.

An entire Institute is being harassed and intimidated by people who think they know more about the doctoral thesis and its evaluation than established professors with years of experience. The attempt is to suppress the plagiarism simply because the person involved is from a certain caste. Does conjoining the word ‘Dalit’ with ‘professor’ make plagiarism acceptable? No matter how many ‘leading scholars’ sign a petition to pressure IIT Kanpur’s Board of Governors’ decisions, let us remember the following:

· Only the IIT Kanpur Senate — comprising 200-and-odd senior professors holding doctoral degrees from leading universities across the world — is qualified to make that judgement.

· Being an expert in one field does not qualify one to comment on another. The experts who have signed the petition should know this.

The facts are simple. On 15 October 2018, an email was received by the Director, IIT Kanpur, and other faculty members from an anonymous source which alleged plagiarism in the PhD thesis of Roll No Y10101064, which was, in fact, that of Dr Saderla when he was enrolled at IIT Kanpur as a doctoral student. The email included the thesis of Dr Saderla and sources from which entire pages had been allegedly lifted. The common portions had been highlighted. In this email, the sender compared Dr Saderla’s case to a previous case of plagiarism by Abhishek Singh, an M Tech student of the Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Kanpur, whose M Tech degree was revoked by the IIT Kanpur’s Board of Governors in 2017, following a recommendation by the Senate. The sender demonstrated that the amount of plagiarism in Dr Saderla's thesis was not just limited to introductory chapters, as in the case of Abhishek Singh, but was of a much greater magnitude.

In his email, the student wrote: “I am also unhappy and misillusioned (sic) to see the severe discrimination between student and faculty on campus when applying academic rules. For a small error, SSAC and Senate easily terminate a student. Our intentions and capability are questioned when we may be merely acting out of ignorance. Even more importantly we do what we do because we have faith in our guide and our teachers. But when a faculty commits serious mistakes, he is let off without even a warning. I have seen faculty exploit students, forge data, misuse project funds and even plagiarise. Some do it openly and are never challenged. Some are challenged but never punished. Some are never challenged and also awarded. The hypocrisy of IITK and the academic system is getting to me now. It makes me wonder, why do I spend sleepless nights over my work at all? I can simply copy.”

According to the student, paragraph after paragraph, page after page had been copied by the person with that roll no (Dr Saderla) in his PhD thesis from at least two theses of his seniors, and even a paper published by one of them. Not only the PhD thesis, but Dr Saderla had also copied material worth an entire page in a paper published by him in the International Journal of Intelligent Unmanned Systems from the thesis of Roll No Y4101064. Would a good journal have accepted this paper if it knew of this alleged plagiarism? Would this journal continue to accept this if it was told about the alleged plagiarism? At the same time, the plagiarised paper would, no doubt, have played a role in Dr Saderla’s career progression.

The email sender attached Dr Saderla’s thesis with highlighted portions that were copied from the thesis of his seniors. The student mentions: “For example, page 1-5 of Chapter 1 of Prof Subrahmanyam S’s thesis are an exact copy of page 29-34 of Chapter 1 of Prof N Peyada’s thesis. Again, page 145-149 of Chapter 6 is an exact copy of page 87-92 of Prof N Peyada’s thesis. Section 7.3.1 of Prof Subrahmanyam S’s thesis is an exact copy of Section 5.1 of the 2014 paper of Kumar & Ghosh in The Aeronautical Journal, vol. 118. So is Section 7.3.2 from Section 5.2 of the paper and section 7.4 from section 5.4 of the same paper. The entire Appendix A of Prof Subrahmanyam S’s thesis is a complete copy and paste of the Appendix B of the thesis of Prof R. Kumar.”

Dr Saderla converted this into a caste issue. He filed an FIR against four professors of the institute, without any real evidence, to support his charge that they were responsible for the email. The Allahabad High Court stayed the FIR in totality on 22 November 2018 — a very rare event which only highlights the possible intent of the FIR.

On 12 November 2018, another anonymous email was received by the institute director and faculty in which the sender claimed that he/she had been proved right. While there were reports that police action would be pursued against the anonymous sender, no action was initiated against Dr Saderla. The sender alleged that Dr Saderla had plagiarised his M Tech thesis as well. The sender said that entire Chapter 1 had been copied from Chapter 1 of the thesis of Girish Sagoo. This is identical to the plagiarism of Abhishek Singh whose M Tech degree IIT Kanpur cancelled. Large parts of Chapter 4 were allegedly copied from Chapter 6 of another student (Roll No Y210165). Section 4.4 was taken from a book of (one) Jategaonkar without any reference. The introduction of Chapter 5 was copied from an AIAA paper. The gravity of the plagiarism in Dr Saderla’s M Tech thesis was perhaps best captured by the fact (see included image) that nearly the entire last chapter on Conclusions and Future Work seems copied! If the conclusions are copied, what was the contribution of the M Tech thesis?

IIT Kanpur Case: Is Plagiarism Okay If You Are From The Right Caste?

A cursory look at the attachments received from the anonymous source suggest that the extent of plagiarism in the PhD thesis was alarming and, indeed, far more extensive than the precedent case of Abhishek Singh’s M Tech thesis as briefly shown below.

Descriptions and discussions of his results are copied. For example, as the anonymous student points out, on p. 194-195 in Sec. 7.3.4 (b) of Chapter 7, when discussing his research data, Dr Saderla writes “The estimated parameters are compared to the wind tunnel estimates (column 2). It can be observed [Tables 7.5(a-b)] that the estimated aerodynamic parameters such as C_(Y_β), C_(l_β), C_(l_(δ_a )), C_(n_β) are consistent and in close agreement with the wind tunnel estimates for most of the lateral-directional flight data sets. Most of the flight data sets gave consistent values of the estimated damping (C_(l_p) and C_(n_r)) and the cross (C_(l_r) and C_(n_p)) derivatives (parameters). The obtained values of aerodynamic parameters such as C_(Y_p) and C_(Y_r) were also consistent for most of the flight data sets. However, the values of the estimated parameters such as C_(Y_0), C_(l_0) and C_(n_0) deviates from the wind tunnel estimates but their value is quite small or negligible as desired for most of flight data sets.”

This is almost exactly the same as the top para of “Estimation of lateral-directional aerodynamic derivatives from flight data using conventional and neural-based methods” by R Kumar and A K Ghosh (The Aeronautical Journal, 118, 1453-1479, 2014). So blatant is this copying that even Dr Saderla agreed to this tacitly in comment 3 of his rebuttal letter to the institute.

Of course, this begs the question: If the description of data was copied, can we trust the data? If not, then what was the PhD given for?

Technical explanations of anomalous data are the same in places from the 2011 PhD thesis of Dr Rakesh Kumar. How can it be that data collected after an interval of five years has exactly the same discrepancy? Was the data the same, simply mined again? Then, what was Dr Saderla’s own PhD research about?

On p. 43 of his PhD thesis, Dr Saderla claims that “our flight vehicles are powered by electric motors, the weight of the aircraft remains constant throughout the flight.” Later, in Sec. 6.2, where all four pages are lifted verbatim from REF, Dr Saderla writes that “The exact location of CG during flight is determined from the instantaneous fuel quantity…”.

Did Dr Saderla forget that his vehicles run on electric motors, not fuel?

Finally, around 50 per cent of the final conclusions are copied. If so, then have you really said anything new in your PhD?

The evidence suggests that Dr Saderla has copied large portions of both his post-graduate theses, as well as a published a journal article. Repeat offences attract higher penalties. (See, for example, the UGC guidelines cited below in this article)

Before proceeding further, let’s first note the process through which plagiarism complaints are handled at IIT Kanpur:

Step 1: The matter is referred to the Academics Ethics Cell (AEC) for investigation. The AEC only identifies the extent and source of plagiarism. It is a preliminary fact-finding body and its recommendations can be overruled by statutory bodies such as the Senate Post-Graduate Committee (SPGC, see step 3 below) and the Senate (step 4 below). It does not have the mandate to recommend punishment and the final decision in any case lies in the hands of the Senate or the board.

Step 2: The report of the AEC is shared with the accused for his/her response/clarification/defence.

Step 3: All documents are given to the SPGC for discussion and recommendation, which includes suggestions for appropriate punitive action.

Step 4: Everything is placed before the Academic Senate of IIT Kanpur, which is the highest decision-making body for all academic matters and comprises nearly 200 members, all professors. The Senate discusses the matter in detail and gives a decision. In academic matters this is the final decision. It can, when necessary, also recommend revocation of a degree in matters related to plagiarism of theses to the Board of Governors of IIT Kanpur. Only when the Senate has decided, can it be claimed whether or not IIT Kanpur has found a student to have plagiarised.

This is a very thorough and transparent process.

The IIT Kanpur Director asked the AEC to investigate both the PhD and M Tech theses. The AEC submitted its report to the Director in early November, which was then passed on to Dr Saderla for his response. What did the AEC report say? It most certainly did not exonerate Dr Saderla of plagiarism, as is being made out in the media. The committee (AEC) felt strongly about the infractions of matching or nearly matching passages should be immediately corrected. The AEC report found copying in certain introductory passages in several chapters and in mathematical basics and preliminaries. It found the complaint to be prima facie correct because sections specified pages in the thesis matched corresponding specified pages in the other research documents by other authors. Dr Saderla was to give an apology letter to Director IIT Kanpur, in view of his misdemeanour. However, Dr Saderla is not reported to have tendered an apology for his misdemeanour, as subsequently noted by the institute.

The SPGC, a statutory sub-committee of the Senate, considered the report of the AEC and the evidence provided, and recommended that several pages were plagiarised and, as such, the current PhD thesis of Dr Saderla should be withdrawn immediately. Furthermore, noting that the letter tendered by the student (Dr Saderla) is not an apology, the SPGC said that there should be an apology by Dr Saderla for plagiarism. A revised thesis needs to be submitted and be evaluated de-novo according to the Senate’s decision.

The SPGC recommendations were unanimous and were agreed upon by the Chairperson of the Academics Ethics Cell who is a member of the SPGC and attended the meeting.

Matters finally arrived at the Academic Senate on 14 March 2019. It is widely held that a strong Senate is the core that protects the academic integrity of an Institute, and their presence, and probity, is why, even after 60 years, the older IITs have gone from strength to strength. The Senate discussed the matter in excruciating detail and finally accepted the SPGC’s recommendations, which included the one that Dr Saderla's thesis be withdrawn immediately. The Senate, exercising its statutory powers, also recommended to the Board of Governors that Dr Saderla's PhD degree be revoked, as was done in the precedent case of the M Tech student Abhishek Singh. This is consistent with the Plagiarism Policy of IIT Kanpur, as given in the Senate approved manual on disciplinary matters (so called SSAC manual of IIT Kanpur).

The IIT Kanpur Senate decision on Dr Saderla has a precedent in 2017. It had withdrawn the master’s thesis and revoked the M Tech degree of Abhishek Singh, a student of electrical engineering, when his thesis was found to have been partly plagiarised. The student was recalled from his job in order to register, revise, and resubmit a corrected thesis. This decision of IIT Kanpur, as of universities worldwide, seeks to implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding plagiarism. It is noteworthy that in his M Tech thesis, Abhishek Singh had plagiarised only the introductory chapters and nowhere else, but IIT Kanpur held that plagiarism is unacceptable in any form. Dr Saderla’s plagiarism is worse than that of this M Tech student because the degree in question here, a PhD, is much higher than the M Tech degree of Abhishek Singh. While the latter’s copied content was limited strictly to the introductory chapters, Dr Saderla has copied content in other parts of his PhD thesis.

The decision of the IIT Kanpur Senate, clearly follows the practice of universities world-wide which defines plagiarism as “The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Plagiarism is a fundamental crime in academics, where communication is through the written word. It is wrong on all ethical and moral counts because a plagiarist seeks to build his/her reputation, gain credit or some benefit fraudulently by relying on the efforts of someone else; tries to cover his/her own lack of knowledge, expertise, creativity or hard work by misrepresenting the work of someone else as his own.

Plagiarism is also legally wrong, as the ownership of a written work lies with the author (or the publisher), and taking it without permission is tantamount to stealing.

It is important to make two remarks in the context of plagiarism in academic research in engineering: One, in contrast to, say, literature, the entire contribution of an engineering research can often be in a sentence or two. Therefore, plagiarism in engineering cannot simply be measured in terms of volume or percentage; and, two, in a thesis, or even a research article, the introduction is a crucial part. A well-written introduction says that the author has understood the work of past researchers, and is able to place his/her work in the proper context. Thus, by copying an introduction, a plagiarist may be attempting to falsely misrepresent his/her academic depth and/or hide the fact he/she is unaware of the current state of knowledge.

UGC guidelines state that more than 10 per cent similarity constitutes plagiarism, without discriminating between introduction and other parts of the work. Section 8 of the UGC guidelines stipulate that in case the degree has already been obtained and plagiarism is proved after award of degree or credit, then the degree or credit shall be put in abeyance for a period recommended by the appropriate statutory body overseeing academics in the Institute. The punishment increases greatly if this is a repeat offence.

Dr Saderla has allegedly plagiarised a substantial chunk of both his M Tech and PhD theses, which makes him a repeat offender, and the least punishment, as per UGC guidelines, would be that Dr Saderla’s PhD degree be held in abeyance for at least a year. Because no such mechanism exists, IIT Kanpur had, previously, revoked the degree of M Tech student Abhishek Singh in 2017. To newly create such a mechanism only to save Dr Saderla’s PhD degree, but not Abhishek Singh, who had plagiarised less, and that too only once, and in a lower degree (M Tech), would, of course, suggest that IIT Kanpur discriminates between students on the basis of caste.

Despite due diligence having been followed in the case of Dr Saderla and the precedent case of Abhishek Singh, enormous pressure is being mounted upon the institute by one-sided/motivated reporting in the media. Without a smidgeon of proof, the media has decided to lend full support to a collection of academics and activists attempting to give a casteist hue to a straightforward case of plagiarism. Without accessing the details of the case, reporters are pronouncing judgement on what constitutes plagiarism. Where were the campaigns and the international luminaries in 2017 when IIT Kanpur revoked the M Tech degree of Abhishek Singh, who was from the general category?

Therefore, is what is being played out in the media caste politics, or an objective academic discourse? Plagiarism is a fact, and not a matter of opinion, and hence is blind to race, religion, gender, caste, colour, nationality, ethnicity, region and age.

Practice Makes Perfect?

This is not the first time that Dr Saderla has taken refuge under caste or invoked the SC/ST Act to escape the scrutiny of his academic credentials. This is what he did when he was initially recruited as Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, by IIT Kanpur. Within 12 days of joining, Dr Saderla alleged that he was harassed and discriminated against based on his caste by four senior faculty, in particular, of IIT Kanpur. This claim was filed one day after several faculty raised questions that the manner in which the 2017 Special Recruitment Drive (meant for SC/ST/OBC/PwD), through which Dr Saderla was recruited, had compromised the fundamental rights of other SC, ST, OBC and PwD candidates.

Available facts do indeed raise serious questions about the Special Recruitment Drive of 2017. But that is a story for another day. The issue today is: “Did Dr Saderla plagiarise his M Tech and PhD theses?” This is an academic question, bereft of caste and not a matter of opinion or social justice. The answer to the question is, unfortunately, an unequivocal “Yes”.

The response to plagiarism is a matter of institutional policy, and not social crusade. The Academic Senate of IIT Kanpur has, under the autonomy given to it by the Indian Constitution, taken the stand of “zero-tolerance” to plagiarism. This stand should be respected and applauded, not made the villain of an ill-informed, neo-colonial campaign. Of course, how one can have a percentage of tolerance towards plagiarism boggles the mind. Would Chomsky tolerate plagiarism at MIT?

After several inquiries, the Board of Governors (BoG), at its meeting on 6 September 2018, found that there was no evidence to invoke Section 3 of Act 33 of 1989 (Atrocities Act) against any of the four faculty whom Dr Saderla had accused of caste harassment. In fact, one of the faculty was exonerated of all charges.

Despite the decision of the BoG, Dr Saderla did not give up on invoking caste. He went to the NCSC (National Commission for Scheduled Castes) to challenge the decision of the BoG in exonerating the four professors of caste allegations. The NCSC orders were again stayed by the Allahabad High Court.

Dr Saderla has discovered that by invoking his caste and the SC/ST Act he can counter and suppress questions about his academic credentials or convert serious academic concerns into media hysteria and signature campaigns over Dalit persecution. Does that augur well for the Indian academic system?

The attack on the academic autonomy of IIT Kanpur, the sanctity of its institutional mechanisms, and the policy framework, and most of all the experience and expertise of our academicians, will inflict long-term damage to the IIT system and its academics.

Strangely enough, the institute administration appears to be cowing down under the media onslaught and seems afraid to bring up the issue of plagiarism in the M Tech thesis of Dr Saderla to the notice of the Senate. This is especially relevant given that the board will meet on 8 and 9 April to discuss this matter.

Lastly, those in the media who lent enthusiastic support to this hit-job aimed at IIT Kanpur need to answer the following questions

· Will the verdict of the media, writers, dancers, activists and the local police constable on technical scientific matters over-ride the Senate of IITs?

· Are signature campaigns going to usurp the academic sovereignty of the IITs? Isn’t this hypocrisy when the same critics talk of the assault on institutions under the current regime?

· Is a motley crowd of scholars based in Western universities, and fictional protagonists like Robert Langdon, going to dictate the academic standards in India’s institutes of national importance?

· Would any Western university, even under their programmes of diversity hiring, accept as faculty a minority candidate whose thesis violated the anti-plagiarism policies followed by them?

· Would even acclaimed scholars, whose names are associated with the petition that ‘calls upon’ the IITK Senate to ‘rescind’ its decisions on Dr Saderla’s PhD thesis and degree, allow and accept similar ‘social justice’ media petitions from sundry fields to influence their academic judgements? If not, is this a campaign to dumb down IITs?

· Why are journalists assuming, without serious investigation of credible evidence, that the Senate of an eminent institute like IIT Kanpur — which has 200-and-odd senior professors — is trivialising and distorting academic issues into caste-based vendetta?”’

Given this background and the facts provided by respected academics from IIT Kanpur, the smear campaign unleashed by this international network of academics and activists comes with a clear message: “You natives don’t know how to run your institutions or manage inter-community affairs. We, who are situated in foreign universities, will teach you how to behave.” This is a ‘civilising mission’ in a new sinister avatar.

We had better wake up to the fact that those interested in ‘Breaking India’ have been working hard to create caste and communal conflicts in India for centuries. They have on their payroll very glamorous names among academics, journalists, writers, filmmakers, politicians and people within the system. And they have spared no occasion to humiliate and demonise India by using dubious and controversial propaganda tracts about caste and religion-based atrocities as their favourite weapons.

This is not just a matter affecting four IIT professors or the survival of IIT as a premier institution. It is also about the survival of India as an independent nation instead of being ruled by foreign agencies through remote control. If we allow foreign lobbies to destroy the autonomy of IITs and hijack decision-making at key institutions and ministries, we are sounding the death-knell of higher education in India.

For a different perspective on this story, see this article.

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Maulana Azad National Professor, ICSSR, and the founder of human rights organisation, MANUSHI.

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