IIT-Bombay event drops Sudhir Chaudhary as speaker after ‘complaints over derogatory remarks’

Sudhir Chaudhary was scheduled to speak in the convocation hall on Sunday.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal
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IIT-Bombay has cancelled Aaj Tak anchor Sudhir Chaudhary’s talk at E-Summit 2024 – the institute’s flagship annual business conclave – allegedly over objections from students about his remarks on tribals and Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. 

Chaudhary was initially scheduled to speak on Sunday in the convocation hall, but he was replaced with ShopClues founder Radhika Aggarwal, according to an invitation sent to students on Saturday night.

While the two-day event, which began on Saturday, was organised by student body E-Cell, it is the administration that takes the final decision on the inclusion of speakers at IIT events, said students.

One of the organisers told Newslaundry that Chaudhary was scheduled to speak about journalism and entrepreneurship but was verbally informed of the change in calendar on Saturday night.

This comes in the wake of the latest controversy involving Chaudhary.

A day after reports of a police complaint against Chaudhary over his remarks purportedly questioning Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren’s tribal identity and rights under the SC/ST Act, Chaudhary had called the allegations “baseless”. 

Responding to “all the hateful posts” directed towards him, the anchor earlier said he was “pained” over the “baseless” accusations of “insulting tribals”. He said criticising Soren does “not tantamount to insult of tribals”.

During his primetime show Black and White on January 31, the day Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, Chaudhary said Soren and his family were not “Adivasis” as they lived in “big bungalows”. He also drew parallels between Soren’s night in jail and the tribals living in forests, saying it would be like “going back by 20, 30, 40 years like an Adivasi to the jungle”.

Objections to ‘derogatory remarks’

According to one letter, a student objected to the invite to Chaudhary saying he had allegedly made derogatory remarks about tribals.

Another engineering student, who claimed to have sent a similar complaint to the administration, said Chaudhary “is a big hate-monger” so “we did not want to give him any kind of platform. His remark over Hemant Soren’s arrest was the peak. If IIT still invites him, then it is like sending a message.”

Newslaundry reached out to Chaudhary, but he said he was busy at the moment and could not talk. He did not respond to subsequent phone calls. A questionnaire has been sent. This report will be updated if a response is received.

Newslaundry has also sent a questionnaire to the administration. This report will be updated if a response is received. 

Speaking to Newslaundry, students claimed that the administration had not formally addressed the issue of the cancellation of Chaudhary’s lecture and had only sent an updated calendar of the event instead. 

This comes days after IIT-Bombay cancelled a lecture by GN Devy, an activist and literary critic, on campus. The institute’s administration had sent a formal email, seen by Newslaundry, stating that the lecture has been cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”. 

A piece published on The Wire on Sunday contained excerpts from Devy’s cancelled lecture. “For the last two centuries, Indians have either entirely dismissed all that we had cultivated as ‘knowledge’ in theory as well as a million everyday tasks. Or else, we tend to think that ancient India had all-encompassing knowledge in all domains and tend to glorify that imagined past. But unquestioning adulation or complete dismissal is no substitute for a critical perspective,” it read.

Update at 10.30 pm, Feb 5: The contents of a letter have been redacted to protect the identity of the author.

This report was published with AI assistance.

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