Afroz Alam Sahil, BeyondHeadlines
Prof. PK Basu used to teach at Centre for Management Studies (CMS), Jamia Millia Islamia. He has been a well-known teacher in the student community. Basu has been teaching at Jamia for several years and also reportedly does not take any salary for his service to the university. The unfortunate incident happened on September 7, 2011, when he was taking a class of MBA students of the 2011-12 batch. He allegedly targeted a burqa (veil) clad student questioning the practice of veil. He allegedly further went on to make communally sensitive remarks, including belittling Jamia as a third class minority institution and labeling students as illiterates. He also questioned the utility of his teaching at such a university and to such ignorant students.
Jamia administration has clearly taken the decision in haste, relaying primarily on students’ complaint. It seems no one, including the director, thought it proper to ask Prof Basu to come up with explanation. In between, the matter attracted the attention of the media. It is true that the issue at hand was sensitive, and it was required to be dealt first within the university.
The local Muslim community was shocked and angry. They reacted strongly against the alleged statements of Prof Basu. The university administration has decided to severe contacts with the professor without giving him a chance to defend himself.
This knee-jerk response to the incident has created a negative image of the university. Jamia Millia Islamia has been known as a centre of higher learning in India and abroad. Having the ethical foundation of Islam and stress on social inclusion and communal harmony makes Jamia a unique institution in the entire world. The response to the episode was unbecoming of the reputation and stature of Jamia.
If it comes out that Prof Basu really used those abusive words, it must be condemned and he must be asked to tender an unconditional apology to the university. What is more interesting here is that people who raised their concern as Muslims at least could have used the message of Prophet Mohammad (PUBH) regarding dealing with people who question the faith of a devout Muslim. The Prophet (PUBH) treated the woman with respect who used to throw garbage on him. As per this Islamic teaching, Prof Basu could have been made to understand the religious and spiritual significance of the veil. What is surprising is that no one from the university or the local community took the sacred pain to clarify the doubts of the professor.
(Afroz is pursuing M.Phil in comparative religion from Jamia Millia Islamia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy. Afroz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)