IIT Bombay Faculty Forum condemns misinformation, threats against professor

IIT Bombay professor Sharmistha Saha had been reciving “threats”, following accusation that she invited a “Hamas supporter” during a film screening.

IIT Bombay professor Sharmistha Saha also faced protest by some students on November 11. (Image: Official)IIT Bombay professor Sharmistha Saha also faced protest by some students on November 11. (Image: Official)

Divyansh | November 14, 2023 | 05:32 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Faculty Forum of IIT Bombay has come in support of department of humanities and social sciences professor Sharmistha Saha who has been allegedly receiving threats through anonymous phone-calls and on social media platforms.

Shah has been receiving threats after some students of Indian Institute of Technology raised objections against her for inviting theatre actor Sudhanva Deshpande during the screening of a documentary film ‘Arna’s Children’ on November 6. They alleged that Deshpande supported HAMAS during the event. A student has also filed a police complaint against Deshpande and Shah.

The professor also had to face protest from some students on November 11. The Faculty Forum of IIT Bombay said it is absolutely distressed with the tarnishing of the reputation and physical threats to one of their colleagues. The forum termed allegations made against Shah on social media platforms regarding her support for HAMAS or terrorists as misinformation and falsehood.

Forum's findings

It added that they had a detailed discussion with her on the matter of the documentary screening. The forum came to know that the documentary ‘Arna’s Children’ was screened by her as a part of an ongoing post-graduate course, due to its relevance in the art of healing children who have gone through trauma. This film and the scheduled discussion thereafter were relevant to the course, the forum said. Arna’s Children is a 2004 documentary film about ‘The Freedom Theatre’ founded by two Jewish theater personalities Arna Khamis and Juliano Mer Khamis.

The forum added that its member also came to know that Sudhanva Deshpande, who was invited as a guest speaker, is a theater actor with Jana Natya Manch (JANAM) and has collaborated in the past with ‘The Freedom Theatre’.

The forum also found that the during the screening of documentary a a student, who is not part of the course, recorded the session on his mobile phone. When the course instructor objected to the recording and asked the student to leave the class, he refused to cooperate and became “aggressive”.

No opinion expressed

The forum said, “During the entire session, our colleague neither expressed any opinion about terrorism nor regarding HAMAS. She was not able to respond either to the film or to the comments made by Deshpande because of the intimidating atmosphere prevailing in the class.”

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The recording made during the documentary screening was shared on social media platforms. It was then shown on some TV channels and the incident was also reported in online and print publications.

The faculty forum has condemned the calls for violence against Shah and use of photograph and name in hoardings. The members have also condemned thea action of tarnishing Shah’s reputation in print, TV and social media through “biased information and false claims that she supports HAMAS and terrorism”.

Earlier, IIT Bombay had cancelled former head of political science at Delhi University Achin Vanaik’s proposed talk on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Vanaik was expected to speak on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its effect on the recent outbreak of violence.

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