Podile, plagiarism, politics

On 17 January, Vemula hung himself, saying in his suicide note, “my birth is my fatal accident.” His death has rocked academia, with unabated protests on the Hyderabad campus and elsewhere. Even before the incident, Tandon and others openly referred to Appa Rao Podile, the university’s vice chancellor, as the famed institution’s first political appointee. Appa Rao has since left the university on indefinite leave.

This is from a February 3, 2016, blog post on Scientific American by Apoorva Mandavilli. I quote this to answer the question I’ve been asked throughout today from different people: “Why did you not publish your piece on three of Appa Rao’s papers containing plagiarised content earlier or later?” (The link to my piece, which appeared on The Wire, is here.) Appa Rao, as Mandavilli writes, is the university’s first VC to be appointed via the political route. In fact, according to The Times of India, he once campaigned for the Telugu Desam Party.

My piece was put together over three or four days – from the time I found out about the issues in Appa Rao’s papers to when I had all the information necessary to put my article together. Finally, though its publication date was postponed by a day thanks to the release of the Panama Papers, nothing else was taken into account apart from checking if The Wire had done due diligence before hitting the ‘Publish’ button. Having said all this, I ask: if Appa Rao is the first politically appointed VC at the University of Hyderabad, how can anything he does not be examined through a political lens?