Academic ousted from registrar’s post for calling Amebdkar “Maharaj”
Aurangabad: Referring to Dr BR Ambedkar as ‘maharaj’ (Maanavta ke Maharaj king of humanity) while eulogising him, cost Dr Sadhna Pande, registrar of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (BAMU), her position. Her comments during a senate meeting infuriated members, who put pressure on the vice-chancellor to terminate Dr Pande. Many students and teachers are against Dr Pande’s suspension, and believe a non-issue has been created to oust a woman from the coveted post of registrar.
The incident occurred on June 15, when the meeting was about to start to elect four members for the management council from the university senate. Dr Pande started the formalities at around 11:30 am. As a routine process, she welcomed senate members and asked vice chancellor Prof Dr BA Chopade to garland photos of Dr Ambedkar and Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Instead of calling Dr Ambedkar ‘Manawata ke Mahapurush’ (hero of humanity), she called him Manawata ke Maharaj (king of humanity), after which chaos erupted. Senate member Dr Sunil Magare alleged that Dr Pande deliberately called Dr Ambedkar this, saying he won’t tolerate this at any cost and demanded apology. Responding, Dr Pande apologised multiple times, but Dr Magare’s temper could not be controlled. Senate members and member of the legislative assembly Amarsinh Pandit, Dr Laxmikant Pande and Dr Bharat Khairnar tried to calm him down, but we’re warned not to intervene.
After this Dr. Magare put a resolution to protest Dr. Pande in house and demanded her resignation.
Senate member Dr Babasaheb Kokate supported this resolution, while others chose not to vote. The vice chancellor, as a precautionary measure, asked Dr. Pande to leave the hall, and as soon as she left, Dr. Chopade announced her suspension.
Soon after the meeting, a group of senate members demanded cancellation of the suspension. This group included Dr Ranjan Garge, Dr Bhagwansingh Dhobal, Dr Govind Kale, Dr Haridas Vidhate, Dr Kamlakar Kamble, Pankaj Bharsakhale and Subhash Takle. They also demanded Dr Magare be suspended instead. However, no further decision was taken.
‘Gender inequality, alleges prof’
This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. On March 20, during the annual budget meeting, Dr Magare interrupted Dr Pande during proceedings, and asked her not to continue on in Hindi or English, but only Marathi. Not fluent in the language, but without arguing, she proceeded in Marathi till the meeting ended.
The week following the incident, many student and teacher organisations came in favour of Dr Pande, and demanded her suspension be revoked. A union comprising students mostly from the backward community, The Republican Student Federation, presented a memorandum shielding Dr Pande. Nagraj Gaikawad, head of the federation said, “Dr Pande belongs to the Hindi-speaking belt, and is not fluent in Marathi. She mistakenly called Dr Ambedkar ‘Manawavta ke Maharaj’, there was no hidden intention behind it. No one objects if we call Dr Ambedkar as ‘Dalitancha Raja’ (king of Dalit’s), so what’s wrong with Maharaj?”
He also alleged that some people are damaging the university’s image by making issues out of non-academic issues and making the university a ‘political adda’.
Another delegation, Swabhimani Maharashtra Under Privileged Teachers (SMUPTA) Association, met with the vice chancellor and demanded suspension of Dr Magare. Dr Shankar Ambhore, head of SMUPTA, said that the words used by Dr Pande were beyond the understating capacity of Dr Magare. Dr Ambhore alleged that Dr Magare deliberately created scene to attract the media’s attention. He claimed that the Maharashtra University Act does not allow these kind of suspensions, also demanding stringent action against people like Dr Magare. This delegation comprises Dr Kishore Salve, Dr Kishore Wagh, Prof Prashant Vanenjekar, Dr Arun Shirsath, Prof Mohan Soundarya, and more.
Governor-appointed senate member Dr Yogita Hake Patil-Taur also came forward to support Dr Pande. She said Dr Ambedkar spoke of gender equality, but Dr Magare and his team cannot tolerate a woman being in a decision-making post. Dr Patil alleged that despite knowing that Dr Pande can’t speak Marathi, Dr Magare forcefully asked her to conduct the programme in Marathi. She also said that ‘maharaj’ means ‘mahan raja’. If there is no problem calling Shivaji, Shahu and Sayajirao Gaikawad ‘maharaj’, then why is it wrong to call Dr Ambedkar the same? She also advised the some senate members to concentrate on academics.
‘Dr Pande spreading RSS ideology’
However, Maharashtra Under Privileged Teachers Association (MUPTA), demanded continuation of Dr Pande’s suspension. Dr Magare, head of MUPTA, said, “Dr Ambedkar spent his life fighting superstitions, but Dr Pande defamed him by calling him ‘maharaj’.” He said that ‘maharaj’ is a term associated with rituals, superstitions and traditions. He also said that she has insulted the entire Dalit community, and that she shouldn’t be allowed back in office. He added that Dr Pande being a law teacher, she should Dr Ambedkar’s contribution to the Constitution better. He also said he does rule this out as being part of an RSS ideology, alleging that RSS-minded people are deliberately tying to change the Constitution. Dr Suresh Gaikaewad, Dr Sambhajii Waghmare, Prof Bhaskar Tekale, Dr Sunil Medhe, Dr Sunil Jadhav, Dr Shaikh Munir and others supported Dr Magare.
Interestingly, Dr Pande is first female registrar in this university, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Meanwhile, Dr Pande was reinstated on June 16. A legal expert said that Dr Pande is the In-charge registrar, hence, there is no provision of suspension of such as officer in a Maharashtra University Law. Sources said that Dr. Pande was also election officer. She was responsible to conduct this process. This is the reason Vice Chancellor decided to reinstate her in the same office. Surprisingly, This time, Dr Magare did not oppose her reinstatement as registrar.
[This story was first published on NewsCentral 24×7.]