Ahmedabad, Oct 18: Nine of the 24 trustees of the Gujarat Vidyapith, which Mahatma Gandhi founded in 1920, have resigned in protest of state Governor Acharya Devvrat’s appointment as new chancellor under “political pressure.”
However, the Ahmedabad-based university’s governing body has decided not to accept the resignations.
In a joint statement, the nine trustees on Monday said the selection of Devvrat as the chancellor was done due to “crass political pressure,” and in “total disregard of Gandhi’s values, methods and practices.”
They urged the governor to resign as chancellor in order to “preserve the fundamental values of democracy and transparent autonomous decision-making (at the varsity).”
The governor had on October 11 agreed to take over as the 12th chancellor of the 102-year-old institution after the university’s governing council resolved on October 4 to invite him to assume the post for five years following the resignation of incumbent Ela Bhatt (89), a well-known activist and Gandhian, due to age-related issues.
The Gujarat Vidyapith’s governing council, its highest decision-making body, said in a statement that a unanimous resolution was passed at its meeting on Monday to not accept the resignation of eight trustees (the ninth member is a lifelong trustee).
Narsinhbhai Hathila, a lifelong trustee and one of the signatories of the joint statement issued by the nine trustees, also approved the governing council’s decision to not accept the resignations so that the institute keeps getting their guidance for a long time, the institute said in a press release.
In an open letter, the nine protesting trustees said the selection of Devvrat as the chancellor was “neither spontaneous nor the unanimous decision of the board of trustees.”
“It was under crass political pressure. It was in total disregard of Gandhi’s values, methods and practices,” they said and appealed to the governor to decline taking charge as the chancellor in order to “uphold the fundamental values of democracy and transparent autonomous decision-making (of the varsity).”
“Our humble request to you is an act of collective conscience after considerable deliberation. We, of course, do not have anything against your person,” said trustees Narsinhbhai Hathila, Sudarshan Iyangar, Anamik Shah, Mandaben Parikh, Uttambhai Parmar, Chaitanya Bhatt, Neetaben Hardikar, Michael Mazgaonkar and Kapil Shah in the joint statement.
The trustees said they believe the decision to select the new chancellor was taken in “undue haste, under political pressure, out of fear and intimidation, in total disregarding due process, avoiding need for dialogue as well as without considering other possible names.”
“We believe that the impugned decision was made to save the body of the institution, divorced from its soul, and all values and principles were sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Alas, after the decision was made, we requested the management to let things settle down, and not rush with the invitation to the selected person,” they said.
The trustees said what has happened in regard to the selection of the new chancellor was shocking.
“Understandably, more pressure may have been brought to bear, and that is what has resulted in the sequence of events. What has happened is indeed, sad, shocking and unbecoming for an institution with such pedigree,” they said.
They also claimed that as a condition for hearing their demands, the state government made unreasonable demands regarding the appointment of the chancellor.