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On Sunday, Ashoka University admitted “lapses in institutional processes" amid an uproar over resignations of two public intellectuals from its faculty. On 15 March, Pratap Bhanu Mehta had quit, saying he was constrained to do so after a meeting with its founders left him abundantly clear that his association with it “may be considered a political liability". Arvind Subramanian resigned shortly after, saying it was “ominously disturbing" that “even Ashoka—with its private status and backing by private capital—can no longer provide space for academic expression and freedom". The departures provoked a joint protest by 150 academics worldwide. Raghuram Rajan, notably, charged the varsity in Sonepat, Haryana, with having “bartered away its soul".

The extent to which Ashoka can resolve the matter to the satisfaction of its critics is in the realm of conjecture. What’s certain is the value to any country of professors with permanent tenure. Indeed, there are few better ways to foster intellectual autonomy, a must for us to keep our best minds whirring in India’s favour, and Ashoka’s case has struck a chord of alarm over an ideal of truth inscribed on our state emblem.

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