Rationalists are increasingly targeted in South Asia by dominant fundamentalist forces of the respective countries. Whereas in Bangladesh, Islamist fundamentalists are killing rational thinkers and bloggers, in India the Hindu fundamentalist forces are doing the same.  Universities in India have become the centre stage for these attacks in the recent period. While these had started in the world famous Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and Central University of Hyderabad two years back, in a latest episode, such incidents have spread to the North East India as well. In a bizarre case, Dr. Charvak, a rationalist professor and thinker was given marching order by the University in the ill-conceived one-word pretext that his ten year old appointment is illegal. After the intervention of judiciary as well as national union of the teachers of central government university (FEDCUTA), he was reinstated.

On 28 November 2017, at 4:15 pm Dr Charvak, 47-year-old associate professor of Mass Communication Department in the Central University of Assam, India was sacked in a peculiar manner without any prior intimation on the allegations or any proceedings at all. After being on permanent government employment of nine years and four months, he was suddenly served with a termination letter which cancels his appointment on the pretext of it is being illegitimate. The order claimed his appointment was illegal without mentioning why. When Dr. Charvak brought the matter before the High Court of Gauhati, – the capital of the state of Assam, the Court ordered University and Government to place the detail proceedings against the teacher for verification for judicial scrutiny. University administration and government immediately backtracked by withdrawing his termination letter immediately. No reason for doing this to Dr. Charvak was cited at all even before the High Court, who had asked for all papers.

This peculiar harassment targeting Dr Charvak is indeed a continuation of the continuously increasing attack on rationalist and secular academia that first started against the students and teachers of JNU in the national capital of New Delhi in early 2016, a year and half after the ruling right wing extremists had occupied the central government in India. Following the rise of right-wing ideology there was a drive of cronyism in the Government Institutions.

During the last few years, India witnessed increasing attacks on rationalists, which is now known to the world after the eminent writers like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh was killed by one after another incident of assassinations. Killing writers, scholars and journalists were largely unknown in India before. Whereas Narendra Dabholkar was killed in Pune (2013) just before the rise of right wingers to central parliament of India, both Govind Pansare (at Kolhapur) and M.M. Kalburgi (at Dharwad) were killed in 2015. In 2017, journalist and rationalist author Gauri Lankesh was gunned down in Bangalore. In JNU, professors like Nivedita Menon were not physically attacked but the administration subjected them to be harassed and victimization in more than one way.  In North East of India, Assam University created another example by summarily sacking a rationalist, and then backtracking after the intervention of the Court of Law.

Arghyaeep Barua, a musician and film activist, who is also a former student of the department, told that: Dr. Charvak is a rationalist, intellectual and a harsh critique of the right-wing philosophy. It is emblematic of his usage of the name without surname since his childhood, as a token of protest against caste-system. He has considerable influence on his students which is disliked by the right wing extremists who are now trying to politicize the University administration.

According to various media and website reports, Dr. Charvak, an alumnus of Visva Bharati, Santiniketan established by Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore, University of Calcutta, and Centre for Development Studies, JNU, has been teaching Journalism and Mass Communication in Assam University at Silchar since 2008. Earlier he was a journalist in West Bengal and different states of North East India, having worked for Daily Ganashakti, and then for Doordarshan News and All India Radio News. He was the founder News Editor of Doordarshan News, Agartala, and also known for his contribution in All India Radio News of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland- two more north eastern states of India. His tenure as a Field Media Officer had exemplary work in development communication undertaken for decentralization of planning in early 2000 in the name and style of Village Planning by the villagers, and also for the marginal tribes of North Bengal like the Toto community and other tribes, and also on networking against women trafficking. Dr. Charvak has also worked as a consultant for authoring public policy papers of UNDP-India twice.

Local media reports from India suggest that Dr Charvak was targeted by the right wing extremists’ brigades due to his influence and ideology. Some of his columns in local media were critical of administrative policies. His termination letter, it is observed by many, had come in the wake of one his article, which was critical to a recent government programme implementation and policies of the ruling party.  Democracy in India is now testing its strength and resilience against a rising tide of illegal attacks of various types on rationalists, under the backing of an authoritarian fundamentalism at power.