NEW DELHI: The Nalanda University’s run-ins with controversy continue as in the latest development, its Singaporean Chancellor George Yeo resigned on Friday citing India’s “domestic politics” as the reason.
Before Yeo, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen – the founding Chancellor of the varsity - had quit the University in 2015 citing political interference as the reason. Yeo’s decision to put in his papers came close on the heels of the Indian Government choosing to dissolve the Governing Board on November 21st , a decision that the former Singaporean politician claims was taken without him in the loop.
Yeo took to the social media site Facebook to express his dissent on the manner of dissolution of the Governing Board. “The sudden dissolution of the old Nalanda University Governing Board is bound up with Indian domestic politics which I do not wish to be embroiled in. I am not an Indian citizen and prefer not to make further comments beyond what is contained in my statement,” said Yeo, while adding that Nalanda is an idea whose time has come. “It is bigger than and will outlast anyone of us,” Yeo added.
An important pillar of India’s “Act East Policy” that was to serve as the bridge with the South East Asia, the University has been a non-starter since it was mooted in 2009 during the East Asia Summit. The University was set up by a 2010 Act of the Indian Parliament, but has been dogged by continued mismanagement and cannot boast about even a building of its own. The term of its Vice-Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal ended on November 24, and the Government overruled the Governing Board’s decision to extend her term till new VC comes in on November 22. This seemed to have triggered Yeo’s decision to quit.
“Pending the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor, the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Dr Gopa Sabharwal, whose extended term ended on 24 November, was to stay on as interim Vice-Chancellor until the new Vice-Chancellor is in place, to ensure that there is no hiatus in the leadership of the University. This is provided for in the University Statutes and fully supported by the old Governing Board. However, on 22 November, the Visitor overruled the Governing Board and directed that the senior-most Dean be appointed instead,” Yeo said in his statement. His resignation is yet to be accepted by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Visitor of the University.
The Government also dissolved the original Governing Board and reconstituted a new one; a move for which Yeo contends he was “neither involved in the preparation nor consulted beforehand”. “The circumstance under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University's development. It is puzzling why I, as Chancellor, was not even given notice of it,” Yeo concluded in his statement.