KASARAGOD: The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) -- the students' wing of the RSS -- has demanded action against an assistant professor in Central University of Kerala (CUK) for calling the Sangh Parivar a proto-fascist organisation during his class.
In a letter to vice-chancellor Prof H Venkateshwarlu, the ABVP's CUK unit said "no serious studies or research have identified India as a fascist country. Only certain anti-national elements are trying to label India as a fascist country". The ABVP said it would launch mass protests if the vice-chancellor did not take action against him.
Gilbert Sebastian, an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations and Politics, commented while taking an online class on 'Fascism and Nazism' for the first semester students.
"The RSS and its affiliate organisation, together called as the Sangh Parivar meaning the Sangh family (including the BJP) in India can also be considered proto-fascist," he said in one of the PowerPoint slides.
Proto-fascist movements are those influenced by classical fascist organisations.
In the online class held on Monday, he said Spain under General Franco, Portugal under Salazar, Argentina under Juan Peron, Chile under Pinochet, the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the Hutu ultranationalist and supremacist movement of Rwanda in the early 1990s could be considered as proto-fascist, and posed a question whether India under Narendra Modi since 2014 was one.
The assistant professor also criticised the government for exporting vaccines at a time when the country's vaccine needs were not met. "That shows their patriotism," he said. His PowerPoint slides and the audio of the class were made public.
A few faculty members said in a university class, teachers and students were free to take any position. "Leaking classroom discussions and attempting to muzzle academic freedom will not bode well for any university," said a teacher.
All sorts of ideas are discussed in a classroom, ideas which are considered controversial or unacceptable outside the campus, said another teacher. "Students are encouraged to take positions opposite to their teachers' stance," he said.
Gilbert declined to comment saying he was not authorised to speak to news media
Vice-chancellor Prof Venkateshwarlu said apart from the complaint from the ABVP, he had also got a letter from the UGC to look into the matter.
He said teachers should not venture out of the syllabus. "It is both unnecessary and unwarranted," he said.
He, however, said it was not a comment on Gilbert's case. "I will be constituting a committee of senior professors to look into the complaint," he said.