Academics at Delhi University have questioned Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s choice of Professor Syed Ali Karim as director of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, of which she is the chairperson.
Prof. Karim, an associate professor in the Urdu Department of Delhi University, was appointed last week to the Council, which is an autonomous body under the HRD Ministry.
Concerns over Prof. Karim’s appointment stem from charges including sexual harassment and financial irregularities against him.
In the first incident nearly 10 years ago when Prof. Karim was teaching in the Urdu Department of Delhi University, a young research scholar suffered a mental breakdown, attributed to acute harassment from him.
The charges of harassment — copies of the documents are with The Hindu — led to the setting up of a committee as per the Vishaka guidelines. Upon examining the allegations, the committee recommended the following measures: a warning letter be issued to Prof. Karim, no female research student be sent to study under his supervision, and no administrative work be allotted to him.
A member of the committee confirmed that though a report was sent to the apex committee of the Urdu Department which forwarded it to the university authorities for action, no further action was taken.
The student never recovered from the mental breakdown.
Academics cite controversial tenure
The appointment of Professor Syed Ali Karim as director of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has raised eyebrows among academics in Delhi University given the charges levelled against him through his tenure at the Urdu Department.
A committee examining charges of sexual harassment against Prof. Karim had suggested that he be barred from administrative duties but the committee’s report was ignored by the University authorities. A member associated with the committee finding said: “There is a general lack of sensitivity towards such cases and unless they reach the level of the horrific rape of December 16, they don’t merit much attention.”
The second incident occurred in 2007 when a lecturer, who had deposed before the committee enquiring into the harassment charges of the young research scholar, began receiving lewd emails and pamphlets containing obscene matter. She requested an investigation into the matter and even registered an FIR against unknown persons.
Speaking to The Hindu, she said: “A committee did examine my case, but I am not aware if action was taken as the police stated they were unable to trace the offenders.”
When contacted, Prof. Karim attributed all the charges to intra-department rivalry. “You should check with the university for details about absolving me of all charges,” he said.
In addition to the charges of harassment, in May 2015, associate professor Ali Javed wrote a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, marking the copy to the President of India, who is the Visitor of the university, the HRD Minister, the secretary HRD, and other officials, requesting an urgent investigation into the financial irregularities allegedly under the watch of Prof. Karim.
Prof. Javed had reminded them once in 2010 and had written another letter after finding out no enquiry had been instituted.
Interestingly, officials in the university when contacted denied knowledge of the matter though it is learnt that the authorities sat on the files of Prof. Karim before clearing his name for the post of director to the Council, under pressure from the HRD Ministry. The Hindu could not verify the reasons for the delay in clearing Prof. Karim’s name.
The Hindu, “HRD Ministry under fire for choice of Urdu Council head ,” in The Hindu, June 9, 2015. Accessed on June 12, 2015, at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hrd-ministry-under-fire-for-choice-of-urdu-council-head/article7295707.ece
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