Scholar and commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote in his resignation letter to Ashoka University earlier this week that the founders made it "abundantly clear that my association with the institution was a political liability."
Referring to PB Mehta's resignation as "ominously disturbing for academic freedom", Mehta's colleague and former Chief Economic Advisor in the Modi government Arvind Subramanian sent in his resignation, too.
The controversy has deepened after Subramanian announced his exit, students staged protested on the university campus and two more faculty members allegedly announced their resignation.
"My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to carry risks for the university," Mehta wrote in his resignation to Vice-Chancellor Malabika Sarkar.
"It is clear it is time for me to leave Ashoka. A liberal university will need a liberal political and social context to flourish. I hope the university will play a role in securing that environment. Nietzsche once said that 'no living for truth is possible in a university.' I hope that prophecy does not come true," he further added.
Subramanian, in his resignation letter, said that Mehta's exit shows that the university even "with its private status and backing by private capital" cannot provide any space for 'academic expression and freedom'.
Subramanian had joined Ashoka in July 2020 as a professor in the department of economics and is also the founding director of the new Ashoka Center for Economic Policy.
"If the founders think that Mehta's exit is the way they will placate the powers that be, they are mistaken. This dents the university's integrity, pushes it down a slippery slope. Many of the top faculty came here because Mehta and, to be fair, the founders, too, had worked hard to build this space. This sends a chilling signal to everyone in higher education that if private founders, with significant financial resources, can't stand up for Mehta in the face of political pressure, then who can?," a professor told The Indian Express.
On Thursday, March 18, students staged protests against the administration over Mehta's exit.
Following the protests, the university faculty released a statement saying that they were "deeply troubled" by Mehta's departure.