Professor called RSS ‘proto-fascist,’ university bans ‘anti-national’ lectures

The Central University of Kerala has warned its faculty members from making “provocative statements” that are “anti-national” in nature and “against the country’s interests.”

“The faculty members/employees should abstain from giving any type of provoking lectures/statements that are anti-national and will be against the interest of the nation. Strict disciplinary action will be taken against those who indulge in such activities in future,” reads a circular, issued by university last week and accessed by Maktoob.

This comes after Gilbert Sebastian, an assistant professor in the department of international relations and politics, was suspended in May for saying that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be considered “proto-fascist.”

During the online lecture, Sebastian 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 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.

Following this, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the youth wing affiliated to the RSS, threatened to start protests if the university does not take any action against the professor.

The student organisations Fraternity Movement, Students Federation of India, and Kerala Students Union had supported Sebastian.

The academics issued a joint statement in unequivocal support of a Kerala Central University professor who is being targeted by the right wing after he referred to Sangh parivar as proto-fascist in one of his lectures.

During his lecture on “Fascism and Nazism” in April, Sebastian had also criticised the Narendra Modi government for exporting coronavirus vaccines amid a shortage of doses in the country.

Sebastian was then suspended.

An inquiry committee was set up to seek explanation from the professor for his comments. The panel came to the conclusion that Sebastian had exceeded his brief but did not describe his remarks as “anti-national.” After this, the suspension was revoked in June.

However, an executive committee of university said on 24 June that the assistant professor’s comments were “anti-national” and objected to revocation of his suspension. Following this meeting, the executive committee had asked Vice Chancellor H Venkateshwarlu to issue a circular asking faculty members to abstain from making “anti-national” remarks.

Meanwhile, Sebastian clarified in an August 5 letter to the VC that he had neither regretted nor withdrawn his statements during the lecture. In a letter to VC, he said he had only offered the university cooperation.