Harvard decision a dangerous precedent, says Swamy

Washington/New Delhi : The Harvard University in the US has cancelled Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s summer courses over his controversial article in a Mumbai newspaper, prompting him to retort that the move “stifles personal opinion”.

“It is a dangerous principle that stifles personal opinion,” Swamy told reporters in New Delhi Thursday.

In a message on micro-blogging site Twitter, Swamy added: “I have been held accountable at Harvard for what I write in India. This means India studies’ Witzel and Eck are accountable in India. Healthy?”

Michael Witzel and Diana L. Eck are professors at Harvard.

Harvard had cancelled Swamy’s summer courses over his controversial article advocating destruction of hundreds of Indian mosques and disenfranchisement of non-Hindus in India.

After a heated debate, a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tuesday voted to remove two Summer School courses – Economics S-110 and Economics S-1316 – taught by Swamy, according to the Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper.

Swamy received significant criticism for his op-ed article last summer in the Daily News and Analysis calling for the destruction of mosques, the disenfranchisement of non-Hindus in India who do not acknowledge Hindu ancestry, and a ban on conversion from Hinduism, Harvard Crimson said.

“Swamy’s op-ed clearly crosses the line by demonising an entire religious community and calling for violence against their sacred places,” Comparative Religion professor Diana L. Eck was quoted as saying.

Harvard has a moral responsibility not to affiliate itself with anyone who expresses hatred towards a minority group, she said. “There is a distinction between unpopular and unwelcome political views.”

Although Harvard chose to stand by Swamy in August in an effort to affirm its declared commitment to free speech, faculty members shot down his two courses, effectively removing him from Harvard’s teaching roster, the campus paper said.

Many faculty members determined Swamy’s article was not a product of free speech but of hate speech.

“[Swamy’s position on disenfranchisement] is like saying Jewish Americans and African Americans should not be allowed to vote unless they acknowledge the supremacy of white Anglo Saxon Protestants,” said History professor Sugata Bose.

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