On September 7, 2018, Central University of Kerala administration suspended Prasad Pannian, an associate professor of english and comparative literature, from his position as department head for publishing a social media post that criticized the arrest of Ganthoti Nagaraju, a PhD candidate and Dalit student-activist.
On August 11, Dr. Pannian posted on Facebook expressing solidarity with Mr. Nagaraju who was arrested for breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm in the residences. In his post, Dr. Pannian wrote that Mr. Nagaraju’s actions “should have been settled on the campus itself.” The professor further expressed concern for Mr. Nagaraju who lost his mother recently and had not been receiving his fellowship, and urged for his immediate release.
On September 7, The university administration ordered to suspend Dr. Pannian as head of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, citing his social media post. According to the university’s suspension order, Dr. Pannian “criticized the decisions of the University and published his comments in social media, Facebook post on the legal action taken by the University against Shri Ganthoti Nagaraju […]. The Act of Dr. Prasad Pannian is in violation of CCS Conduct Rules 1964 adopted by the University vide Ordinance No. 34 and warrants Disciplinary proceedings against him.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to free expression. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to freedom of expression, so long as it is exercised peacefully and responsibly. Suspensions aimed at limiting such activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.