Raghuram Rajan
Raghuram Rajan

New Delhi: Eminent economist Raghuram Rajan has said that free speech suffered a "grievous blow" in India with the resignations of Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian from the Ashoka University and that the varsity's founders have bartered away its soul. Over 150 academicians from prestigious universities across the globe like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, London School of Economics and MIT, have written an open letter to trustees of Ashoka University, expressing distress over political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta's resignation from the varsity under "political pressure". Earlier this week, the Sonipat-based Ashoka University found itself at the centre of a controversy after political commentator Mehta and economist Subramanian resigned.

In a Linkedin post, former RBI governor Rajan said that free speech has suffered a "grievous blow" in India this week as professor Mehta, one of India's finest political scientists, resigned from the Ashoka University.

"The reality is that professor Mehta is a thorn in the side of the establishment. He is no ordinary thorn because he skewers those in government and in high offices like the Supreme Court with vivid prose and thought-provoking arguments," he said. Rajan, who is a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business -- said, "Free speech is the soul of a great university. By compromising on it, the founders have bartered away its soul." Mehta's exit from the varsity was followed by the resignation of professor Subramanian, also a former chief economic advisor of the Narendra Modi government.

There is ‘grievous blow’ to free speech in India: Raghuram Rajan on political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta's resignation

Rajan also quoted a few lines from Subramanian's resignation letter which said, "That even Ashoka - with its private status and backing by private capital - can no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing.

According to Rajan, it is not that Mehta has much sympathy for the opposition either. "As a true academic, he is an equal opportunity critic. He is, and I hope will continue to be, one of the intellectual leaders of liberalism in India," the former RBI governor said.

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