“I Belong to a Research Institute, Not a Govt-led Organization,” a Resigned Professor on Australia India Institute

By Sonal Nain, 21 Apr 2022

Sixteen fellows affiliated with the Melbourne-based Australia India Institute, a center to encourage support for the India-Australia relationship, have resigned due to restrictions on academic and research freedom. It has become a major subject of contention in Australia and India in recent weeks.

The resigned fellows believed that all India-related events at the institute had an element of propaganda. They stated that one event that discussed violence against minorities in India had been downgraded.

Kuntala Lahiri Dutt, a professor at Australian National University, was among those who resigned from the institute after its thriving research culture was jeopardized. She speaks with Mojo Story about why she left and how the institution is restricting academic freedom.

Professor Dutt stated that she left the institute because it has become a government-to-government channel since the appointment of the new director, Senator Lisa Singh, “Each institute is largely shaped by the director, and we were surprised to see Senator Lisa Singh appointed even though she was not one of the two shortlisted candidates that we met.” 

She believed that the India Australia Institute was a research organization under the previous director, and that’s when she joined as an academician; now, she doesn’t want to be involved in a government-to-government initiative, “As an academic, my job is to enhance critical thinking in my research and among my students. I belong to a research organization and not a policy organization.”


Watch the full conversation below.