Published: 10th November 2021
Dr Nandakumar Kalarikkal on Deepa Mohanan controversy: The position doesn't matter to me, I am committed to research
The news of Kalarikkal's removal was confirmed two days ago, after a 10-day-long hunger strike by Deepa Mohanan. She had accused the professor of caste-based discrimination and had sought his removal
It was in early 2020 that Dr Nandakumar Kalarikkal took an academic leave of absence from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, to teach at Frace's University of Lorraine. He is a professor of Physics, who was in charge of two centres — International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN) and School of Pure and Applied Physics. This was until a researcher called Deepa Mohanan brought a hailstorm of allegations against her research guide and him, the centre head. After having been on hunger strike for ten days, the Government of Kerala acted and removed him from his post.
We reached out to him over email and asked him how he felt. When he heard that he has been removed from the position of the IIUCNN Director, he appeared unfazed. Even though he is yet to receive an official notification from the university, he says, "The position doesn't matter to me. I am more committed to discharging my duties as a researcher." He adds, "I don't need to be in a hurry." Kalarikkal, who began his career in MGU's School of Pure and Applied Physics in 1994 as Assistant Professor, was a Postdoctoral fellow at CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram
Incidentally, Deepa had accused the professor of caste-based discrimination and had sought his removal. The issue had gathered a lot of attention and she had gained support from various corners across the country. In fact, Kerala's Higher Education Minister Dr R Bindu too had issued statements supporting Deepa, assuring her that Kalarikkal will be removed from his post.
Unsurprisingly, the professor believes that the move is "unfair". He is set to return to India only in December and says that he wasn't contacted by the university in any bid to investigate the issue. Previously, when the strike had begun, the university's Vice-Chancellor Dr Sabu Thomas said that it will be unfair to remove Kalarikkal from the position, given his merit and productivity. However, later, Thomas was asked to take charge as the IIUCNN Director and function as Deepa's co-guide.
When asked about what he thought of the whole episode, Kalarikkal says that the strike was baseless. "(She was) given many terms to complete her work but accusations that I am not permitting her to do the work is baseless. I was only the Director of the Centre. I am not her guide or co-guide and they have not raised this complaint against me," he tells us over an email. He adds that he did not contact Deepa either, when she started the strike and says that there is no need to do so. "I can raise my stand once I return from abroad," he says.
Deepa had joined the university as a researcher 10 years back and has been accusing Kalarikkal of casteism for a while now. Previously, while speaking with EdexLive, Kalarikkal said that he's been a victim of torture and had been targeted by Deepa for a long time. "She's been continuously naming me and making baseless allegations. We've been extending all our support but why is she not doing any of her work? Irrespective of caste and creed, everyone must do their work. She just wants to establish that MG University is casteist," he then said.