On 5 March around noon, a day after his resignation from the post of associate professor of English journalism (EJ) at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, I met Amit Sengupta at his home in Mayur Vihar. He discussed the problems ailing his alma mater, from where he received a one-year EJ diploma in 1981. Among the various shortcomings he accused the institute of—such as inadequacies in the course and its implementation, politically motivated appointments, shortage of teaching staff, and a general atmosphere of bureaucracy—the most vehement accusation was that there was no actual journalism being taught at the institute. “They want to create robot-like products for the market with no critical thinking or journalistic skills,” Sengupta alleged, before adding, “My transfer was a punishment posting, and a case of victimisation right from the top at MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting). I have done what I had to do—but it’ll be enough of a tribute to me if my students become independent journalists and good human beings.”
I spoke to over thirty IIMC alumni and students, all of whom were taught by Sengupta after he joined in October 2013. Almost all of them concurred with his remarks. In addition, they stressed that Sengupta was one of the few exceptions among the faculty, who inspired them to think politically, beyond the sanitised academic routine—and that perhaps he was targeted by the authorities for the same reason.
On 1 March, Sengupta received an order signed by Anurag Misra—an Indian Information Service (IIS) officer who currently serves as an officer on special duty (OSD) at IIMC—informing him that he had been transferred to IIMC Dhenkanal, in Orissa. Three days later, Sengupta responded with a resignation letter that he later posted on his Facebook account. He wrote that no official reason for the transfer was given, and there had been no prior discussion about a move. He alleged that this treatment was meted out due to his active support for the student protestors of Jawaharlal Nehru University and for his solidarity with those in IIMC protesting the institutional death of Rohith Vemula. Sengupta wrote: “This is part of a larger witch-hunt against intellectual freedom, academic autonomy and professional excellence, to target and eliminate individuals who this regime has declared as enemies for reasons only they know.”