FCRA poster & anon email raise worries about university's funding. Professor claims misunderstanding
Updated: Apr 22
By Anirudh S.K. and Navya Asopa
On 15 April, a screenshot of an email from Kranti Saran, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ashoka University sent to Vice-Chancellor Somak Raychaudhury and the permanent faculty was leaked to some students by a ProtonMail account named “edwardsnowdenstan”. The screenshot was widely circulated in student circles and groups.
In the email, Saran says “external challenges to [Ashoka’s] funding” existentially threaten the university’s survival. According to him, the university was obligated to inform its “potential associates” of the situation.
Saran has since clarified his comments were “based on a misunderstanding.”
“I can confirm that my first email was based on a misunderstanding that renders the concerns it expressed null and void as I explained in a follow-up email to the faculty. My email should therefore be ignored,” he told The Edict by email.
“Circulating [my email] without context is irresponsible, dishonest, and appears to be calculated to harm the University. The pace of construction of Ashoka's new campus is a visible testament to its robust finances,” Saran added.
Saran’s claims came two days after a poster was seen in multiple places around campus highlighting Ashoka University’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license to receive foreign donations is scheduled to expire in five months.
The FCRA requires non-profits, charities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the Indian government in order to receive foreign funding. As a non-profit university, Ashoka falls under the FCRA's purview.
The poster mentions Ashoka's parent NGO, the International Foundation for Research & Education (IFRE), received 265 crores in foreign donations between 2017 and 2022. It also makes reference to a closed-door event the university held on 12 April with Vijay Chauthaiwale, the BJP’s foreign affairs department in-charge, implying these events were connected.
The FCRA has been in the news recently after the Indian government revoked Centre for Policy Research’s (CPR) license in February and raided Oxfam India’s offices this month, alleging the latter had made money transfers prohibited under the Act.
Critics of the government say it uses the FCRA to selectively silence voices that aren't in line with its views. The FCRA says registration can be canceled if “in the opinion of the Central Government, it is necessary in the public interest to cancel the certificate.”
Students immediately voiced their concerns regarding the email and poster over social media. Sharing the email leak on Twitter, a user called it “Next CPR.” This tweet was viewed by thousands on the site.
The Edict reached out to some students about their concerns.
A senior student said, “Kranti’s follow-up email seemed like a flimsy response to genuine questions by students about the ‘threat’ mentioned in his earlier mail.”
Arya Shukla, a UG23 student asked, “Why is it that every time Ashoka students are informed of something relevant to their academic journeys, they find it through a press leak or some channel that is not the administration? Do they not owe us anything?”
Larger questions were raised too. Aggam Walia, an ASP student claimed that the recent developments were a “question of expansion” and that “students need to be vigilant of the government meddling with how Ashoka is run”.
The Edict also reached out to Ashoka University's media team for official comment on April 15. We have not received a response.*
*edited to add on April 23