Published: 03rd March 2020
Will live like an outcast: HC dismisses case against sacked 'whistleblower' IIT Guwahati professor
Rai was asked to go on 'compulsory retirement' in early January by the Board of Governors who had conducted the enquiry against him
Controversial IIT Guwahati professor Brijesh Kumar Rai's case in the Gauhati High Court against the 'compulsory retirement' imposed on him by the institute has been dismissed. The Court has asked Rai to appeal to the President of India if he is unhappy with the Board of Governors' decision in his case. The 'whistleblower' professor could soon be forced to consider other options career-wise because he says he doesn't feel he has the energy to carry on this almost 4-year fight against the institute.
It was in January 2016, that Prof Bijesh Kumar Rai filed his first complaint against an issue of corruption on campus. Ever since that day, Rai's life has been a rollercoaster ride — he says he's filed over 300 RTIs — 'unearthed scams', written and spoken widely on the 'large scale' corruption in the institute, especially in its hiring procedure. But a few months ago, things began to get really ugly when the institute issued Rai show-cause notice after notice to attend enquiries into his attempt to 'malign the image of the institute'.
Finally, Rai was asked to go on 'compulsory retirement' by the Board of Governors who had conducted the enquiry against him. He was, without intimation, blocked from the faculty email, his own email was also blocked making it impossible for him to keep up with his academic work and also preventing from sending reference for his students. Students who might have required his recommendation for future employers or applications. He was also asked to vacate from his place of residence on campus within a month, when professors who are dismissed the same way are usually given two months.
However, the High Court stayed the order and allowed Rai to continue staying in his quarters. With many students supporting him. two of whom also went on a hunger strike, Rai took the issue of his compulsory retirement to the court. He has been writing to the MHRD, the Prime Minister and the President regarding the issues of corruption and the harassment that he had been facing in the campus.
He hasn't heard back from anybody.
On Monday, just the day before the court hearing, Rai was walking to a canteen situated in one of the hostels. He was suddenly stopped by a security guard and was prohibited from entering, "He told me that the administration had told him to not allow me to enter the hostel premises and that I didn't have the permission to enter. I only wanted to have a cup of tea and something to eat. It was humiliating," Rai says. He says that this is the administration's way of harassing him, "What do they want to do, humiliate me enough that I feel forced to go away? That they cut me off, prohibit me from entering spaces on campus, doesn't seem to be enough. So because I got the stay order to continue living in my quarters, they are doing everything they can to keep me away from other places and humiliate me this way?" he asks.
A few hours later, he heard about his case being dismissed.
Rai says he's disappointed and dishearted. And even though he will write to the President, he doesn't really feel motivated to do so. "I feel completely disheartened. I've already written many times to the authorities, what guarantee that I will even get a reply? The court has said that there is a statute in IIT rules that if one is unhappy with the decision, then they can appeal but I'm questioning the very basis of the procedure and the way the enquiry was carried out. It is not about reducing the quantum of punishment, I'm asking how is it possible that I'm even being punished, " the professor asks.
"I was naive to think that something good would come out of this," the professor says talking about his crusade.
At this point, Rai who has always stated that he will fight till the very end says that he has to reconsider his decision. He doesn't know if he has the time, energy or resources to continue. "I will live like an outcast here. They are out to destroy my career. So I have to first study the consequences of the decisions I make. But to be honest, I'm tired and this fight has taken a toll on my mental health. And I fear that the authorities would make it difficult for me to get any other job as well," he ponders.
Yet, the disheartened professor will write to the President and pray for some kind of relief. His hope, though, is wavering.