Faculty members of IIT Bombay have stood up in support of a professor who faced protests over claims that she and another guest speaker had glorified the Hamas action against Israel.
The Faculty Forum of IIT Bombay on Tuesday issued a statement condemning the threats and attempts to both intimidate and tarnish the reputation of Professor Sharmistha Saha of the Department of Humanities and Social Science.
A group named the Vivek Vichar Manch has claimed that Saha and guest speaker Sudhanva Deshpande had glorified Hamas during a discussion after the screening of a documentary film — Arna’s Children — at the IIT last week. In a strongly worded statement issued to the media and reported by The Telegraph, the forum has stated,
“The faculty forum is absolutely distressed with the tarnishing of the reputation and physical threats to one of our colleagues via anonymous phone calls, and posts on Social Media platforms. The allegations made in social media about her supporting HAMAS or terrorists are based on misinformation and falsehood,” the statement by the Faculty Forum said.
The Forum also said that it had discussed the issue with Saha and that she had denied the allegations. The film was screened by her as part of an ongoing postgraduate course due to its relevance to the art of healing children who have gone through trauma. Arna’s Children is a 2004 documentary about The Freedom Theatre founded by two Jewish theater personalities. The film has won several awards at international festivals and is available for free on YouTube. Deshpande, a theatre personality, was invited as a guest speaker to introduce the relevance of the film to the audience and for the post-screening discussion.
Sabrangindia had published the statement of Sudhanva Deshpande last week where he had detailed the various domensions of the malicious campaign, drawing out the nexus between those “students” responsible for the social media campaign andelectronic media channels like Times Now. That statement can be read here.
Ironically, a\A student, who was not part of the course, recorded the lecture session on his mobile phone despite being asked not to do so. “During the entire session, our colleague neither expressed any opinion about terrorism nor did she express any opinion about HAMAS. She was not able to respond either to the film or to the comments made by Mr Deshpande because of the intimidating atmosphere prevailing in the class. The recording (which was made despite her explicit denial) was put up on social media posts and was also shown on some TV channels,” the Faculty Forum statement further added.
A few people claiming to be associated with the Vivek Vichar Manch shouted slogans at the main gate of the IIT holding large hoardings bearing Saha’s name and photographs. They accused Saha of being a traitor, issued death threats to her and called for her removal from IIT Bombay.
“The Faculty Forum of IIT Bombay strongly condemns the following: Calls to violence against our colleague, use of her photograph and name in the hoardings, tarnishing her reputation in print, TV and social media through biased information and false claims that she supports HAMAS and terrorism,” the statement said.