Ramachandra Guha's IISc appointment sparks controversy

The appointment of historian Ramachandra Guha to a science chair at the IISc has sparked controversy and set the Twitterverse ablaze.

Guha, noted for his expansive trilogy on M K Gandhi and India, was appointed to the Satish Dhawan chair at the Institute, which is usually reserved for distinguished scientists contributing to the field of space science and technology. He clarified to DH that "the chair is in the Centre for Society and Policy. It has nothing to do with space science." 

Nevertheless, the appointment of an academician to a science chair has roused outrage. On Twitter, meantime, his appointment appeared to attract criticism from those diametrically opposed to Mr Guha’s self-professed liberality.

In December 2018, Guha was trolled for tweeting a photo of him eating beef. The resulting furore prompted him to delete the image and post a repost about the “hypocrisy of the BJP.”

This sense of collective political fury appeared to follow Guha when, at noon on Monday, he announced his appointment to the chair on his Twitter account.

Hit by a barrage of comments that his appointment was illegitimate and accusations that he would infuse the IISc with Nehruism and a pro-congress spirit, Guha appeared to take the comments in stride, although his phone was turned off on Tuesday morning when this reporter reached out for a comment. He later responded that he would not make a statement about the controversy.

Dr. Aravind Chaturvedi, a former dean at the International Management Institute in New Delhi and one of those commenting, suggested that Guha’s appointment be probed.

“Even APJ Abdul Kalam could not become a Professor as he did not have PhD,” he wrote.

However, to the few positive voices which peeked out of the barrage which populated his tweet response thread was a comment from the Biocon founder, Kiran Mazumdhar-Shaw, congratulating Guha on his appointment.

“Thanks, Kiran,” he wrote. “My appointment is in the new Centre for Society and Policy, and, as you know, apart from his colossal contributions to science and technology, Professor Dhawan had a deep interest in public policy and social change.”

The previous holder of the chair was Prof. Rama K Yedavalli of Ohio State University who is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Guha’s 2007 work, “India After Gandhi” has a rating of 4.5 stars from over 270 reviews on Amazon and is placed 336 in its bestseller ranks.

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