The following is my January Column for the Queens Village Eagle announcing Dr. Sharad Karkhanis as the Educator of the Year and the annual Lincoln Day Dinner where he will be honored on February 10, 2008.
Dr. Sharad Karkhanis, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Library Science at Kingsborough Community College, will be the esteemed recipient of the annual Educator of the Year award at the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Queens Village Republican Club, America?s oldest and proudest GOP group. His most distinguished service concerns his on-going struggle for freedom of speech, conscience and the press, which began as an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi?s authoritarian rule and censorship of the press in India in the 1970?s. His battle for free speech continues today as he refuses to be silenced by a $2 million defamation lawsuit filed by a faculty union official of City University of New York in order to shut down his on-line newsletter The Patriot Returns. We are proud to be honoring him at the history making dinner and fully support his battle for First Amendment rights in an urban academic climate of repression and censorship that harkens back to Mrs. Gandhi?s oppressive rule in India.
Dr. Karkhanis was born into a family of eleven siblings, in the village of Khopoli, India. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Bombay, Siddharth College. He went on to study in Great Britain and the United States earning a Masters in Library Science, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Brooklyn College and New York University. He taught American Government, Foreign Policy, and Political Philosophy at CUNY campuses receiving accolades from students and faculty alike. His many academic and professional deeds and honors are too numerous too list in this short column, but they include founding Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), and receiving the Taraknath Das Award at New York University, to mention a couple. He has listings in the major Who?s Who biographical indexes of American and international authors and has written a dozen books and papers including Jewish Heritage in America, which is an extensive annotated bibliography covering the entire spectrum of Jewish immigration and culture in America.
He wrote Indian Politics and the Role of the Press in 1981, which was meant to inform the progress of freedom of the press in India and developing nations throughout the world. It explores the historical cycles of freedom and repression in India with special emphasis on the censorship of the press during the Emergency rule of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was the daughter of first Prime Minister Nehru, and no relation to the great Mahatma Gandhi. After India?s independence from Great Britain, the press began to thrive in a nation on the fast track to democracy and freedom. Mrs. Gandhi was a strong-willed lady who harbored suspicion towards a free press, who built popular power by means of a personality cult in a pervasive climate of hero-worship. She proceeded to adopt socialist economic policies, nationalizing the banks, insurance companies and centralizing control of the government, political parties and the military in her own hands. She used state power to destroy political opposition and sought to do the same with the press, which was bitterly critical of her policies, socialist measures, and rampant corruption. When the press called for her resignation after a verdict was announced invalidating her election as prime minister — that was the last straw.
Gandhi declared a State of Emergency in retaliation. She seized control of the press to restore her image as an infallible national hero who proclaimed Emergency rule in order to resolve the economic crisis and bring stability to India. Electric power to press offices was cut off, newspapers were confiscated, thousands of journalists and opposition leaders were arrested, fined and deported and all news reports had to be submitted to state censors prior to publication. But the Emergency backfired and political opposition mounted which ultimately booted her out of office for the short term. At the end of the day she lifted the Emergency having learned a bitter lesson about the significance of a free press in a developing democracy.
After his book?s publication, Dr. Karkhanis received widespread publicity and made national headlines in India and was summoned to a clandestine meeting with Mrs. Gandhi. She took notice of his admonition and instead of cracking down, she received him with open arms admitting that he was correct, and perhaps she should have better understood the consequences of the Emergency and assured him that she will no longer strangle the press. She seemed to be more interested in the brain drain from India and was courting such scholars as Karkhanis to stay in the country. But he had already made his home in America and bigger battles with repression and censorship on CUNY campuses were looming.
Dr. Karkhanis started publication of The Patriot Returns in 1992. Written in a satirical tone, it performed a critical function informing the CUNY community of the incompetent and self-serving faculty union leadership that was more concerned with political revolution in America than securing good contracts and benefits for faculty members. He collected useful information, reported and wrote the monthly newsletter, and printed, labeled and distributed over 12,000 issues to 21 CUNY campuses. Since its inception, the ruling radical professors of the CUNY faculty union have been trying to censor TPR, suppress free speech and shut down on-line forums that were critical of their leadership. In 1996, faculty union official and former chair of the CUNY Faculty Senate, Professor Susan O?Malley ordered Karkhanis to stop publication of TPR. Fearing repercussions to their careers, other critics bowed to O?Malley?s repressive exploits but Karkhanis refused to be silenced. She recently sent a threatening lawyer?s letter and finally filed a lawsuit charging Karkhanis with making defamatory statements in TPR, accusing her of trying to land jobs for terrorists on CUNY campuses. TPR exposed her tireless efforts to secure teaching positions for convicted terrorist conspirator, Mohammad Yousry, and imprisoned Weather Underground terrorist Susan Rosenberg. The lawsuit alleges that by spilling the beans on her malfeasance and radical proclivities, Karkhanis has damaged O?Malley?s reputation.
With a lifetime history of standing up against repression and censorship, Dr. Karkhanis will not be silenced now, and friends and colleagues of good conscience are coming to his aid including the Queens Village Republicans. A legal fund for Dr. Karkhanis?s defense is being set up and part of the proceeds of each ticket sold for the Lincoln Day Dinner will be donated to the fund. We will also be treated to a speech on the condition of our urban universities by CUNY Trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, one of the keynoters, and one of the principle heroes famed for restoring higher academic standards to CUNY and fighting against political indoctrination in the classroom. This will be an historical event not only for defending freedom of speech and the press, but also reforming the intolerant status quo of higher education today. The combination of Dr. Karkhanis and Trustee Wiesenfeld in addition to the return engagement of last year?s Educator of the Year honoree, History Professor Gerald Matacotta, to deliver the Lincoln Day address at one of the major annual Queens GOP functions, signifies the last act of the garish drama by the radical faculty regime now in control of the CUNY system.