Saturday, June 12, 2010

Prof. Ashley Tellis: An Update [With a Further Update]

The update appears near the end of this post, before the footnote.

Mail Today reports that Tellis himself has refused to comment on his sacking. And it reports this:

Ashley Tellis ... was asked to leave after his colleagues in the department allegedly complained about his "unlawful behaviour" and "deviant mischief".

There was also this online petition to "Ask the President of India to Protect LGBT Rights." That petition has now been taken down, because Tellis has informed the signatories that he "is taking other action and does not feel this is the appropriate time for this petition."

Yesterday's ToI report indicated that Tellis was to file an RTI application to IIT-H seeking all the relevant information on his sacking. [The contents of IIT-H's letter to him are not in the public domain].

Clearly, a legal battle is brewing. .

* * *

In their comments yesterday, Chitta and Rahul pointed to this article in which Tellis offers the argument that "if [paedophilia] is based on mutual consent, it is no big deal." [In a later article he defends his views].

I remember cringing while reading those articles a few months ago [1]; but I also took them as an example of a professor of humanities pushing the envelope on topics that are too edgy for polite conversation.

All that was until yesterday [see also the update below], when Rahul also pointed to something more damaging: "Elsewhere [Tellis] glories [that link does not work; here's something that might] in his own paedophile activities with a Nepali boy." Unfortunately, that link does not exist any more [Does anyone know if it's archived / cached somewhere?]

Going by Rahul's characterization of that now-defunct article, getting sacked by IIT-H is the least of Tellis's problems, and all his good work [see here, here and here] can do little to rescue him.

* * *

Update: The offending article cited by Rahul is here. The key sentence in his description of that 'Nepali boy' episode (which appears right at the end) is this: "We were young." What Tellis was talking about was (probably) a teen affair, and not "paedophilic activities."

Here's my current take: there's no evidence in the public domain to implicate Prof. Tellis in 'paedophile activities". His articles on the topic of paedophilia may offend us -- as I said, the two TNIE articles make me cringe even now -- but that's no reason to say his removal from IIT-H is justified. [For a point-by-point rebuttal of his "man-boy love could be beautiful" thesis, do read this post by Ketan -- thanks to Chitta for the pointer].

Which is not to say IIT-H had other reasons to fire Tellis. Since I expect a lawsuit, I will wait for some more clarity on the Tellis vs. IIT-H battle ...

[End Update]

* * *

Footnote [1]: I came across Tellis's articles in The New Indian Express a few months ago when he came under attack for these views at another blog which went on to suggest that IIT-H should get rid of him. I wrote to him at that time to alert him about that blog post, and he e-mailed back saying he was already aware of it.

As it happens -- and this is too much of a coincidence! -- that damned post has also been taken down!


  1. vishnu gupta said...

    There is something wrong about a man who posts shocking material, and then cannot stand the mildest criticism. If you had noticed the comments at his various posts, he was not a man who was given in to reasonable arguments with critics, instead using abuse to make his point. Any institute has the right to dismiss people who it thinks have breached discipline. So I don't think you're helping homosexuals by portraying this as something to do with his sexuality. His late night exploits at IIT -H have been confirmed by friends and are enough to warrant dismissal at most places.

  2. chitta said...

    analyzes Tellis' article in great detail.

  3. Rahul Basu said...

    I am sorry Abi, but I am aghast that you should think that ' no big deal' is just a case of an academic 'pushing the envelop on topics too edgy for polite conversation'. So where do we stop -- do rape, murder, etc. also come under the 'pushing the envelop' bit? Surely one can go only so far in one's so called liberal position?

  4. Swamykant said...

    Hi Prof. Abinandanan.

    I sorry to put this note here. Since I didn't find any contact form, I have posted the details here.

    I find your blog to be very interesting and want your blog to be in our List of Indian Science Blogs.

    If you are interested you can update your blog details here -

  5. Anonymous said...

    i happen to have read the now deleted offstumped post when it appeared. irrespective of the moral positions on his posts, he seems to have made some powerful enemies, a lot of whom also moonlight as "internet hindus", not to mention a famous namesake who wont be too happy to see his google search results sullied.
    here is a time-line of his run-ins with the hindutva brigade

    the third link is the removed discussion
    but it can be accessed here
    its author is atanu dey.

    it is not unreasonable to expect that one or some of the players are involved in the sacking story

    holding every possible improper viewpoint, ashley tellis writes in a no-holds-barred and trollish style, and is belligerent in his replies to comments. while we may not agree with many of his viewpoints, i dont see why he should be fired unless he has committed what he supports.

    another article which must have raised hackles in the uber-patriotic internet hindu community is his demolition of a wednesday

  6. Ketan said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  7. Ketan said...


    First off, thanks for mentioning my blog post!

    I read the India Today article, & I feel it clearly plays tricks on the readers' minds. Unfortunate thing about the Indian media is, it is next to impossible to determine the facts. Media has a free hand at reporting facts selectively, & if need be, to invent them. You could find an instance of this here (click).

    Dr. Tellis' suspension/resignation has been juxtaposed with his different style of clothing & encouragement of homosexual relations. But that does not mean, they were the causes of the latest happenings.

    Unfortunately, we tend to look at all unconventional sexual practices as one category, but the fact is all are different. While consensual adult gay sex is socially unacceptable, it is still not illegal.

    The same cannot be said of "consensual" anal penetration of a pre-pubescent child by an adult male (man-boy love = pederasty).

    So, as of now we do not know, precisely for propagation of what ideas or indulgence in what act did he face action.

    It might be argued that IITs need to be more broad-minded in allowing people with unconventional ideas. But I'm afraid many people are confusing personal preference/opinion with advisory by an expert ("man-boy love could be a beautiful thing"). It must be remembered that as a faculty member, he was foremost a teacher. And when dealing with an issue where statistically sound, scientific data is available, is merely having a differing opinion sufficient justification to propagate it, especially when there are long-term harmful consequences (as proved statistically)?

    Would we want a faculty member who insists on teaching that "the Sun is a big ball of fire" instead of the fusion reaction that occurs, or someone adamantly refuting natural selection in favor of 'creationism'?

    His Indian Express articles easily fall in the domain of medicine & health. Can a media house & an expert be rendered bereft of all liabilities when disseminating advisories quite contradictory to the established medical opinion, that too without citing any studies of their own?

    To somewhat repeat the example, would we be equally forgiving of someone refuting the ideas that cigarette smoking increases chances of cancers, stroke, hypertension, heart disorders, etc., without providing the required statistical data?

  8. Nappinnai NC said...

    Thanks for posting spicy articles:-) anything in life can be seen from a neutral perspective. some comments here surprised me. I never understand how people compare everything at the same level: rape/murder vs LGBT. Society doesn't exist on its own. it is we people who form the society and we are also experts in messing it up! What is socially acceptable or unaccestable depends on the views of people who are part of the society. A society needs to progress and move forward individually & collectively without meddling with other people personal affairs. Because love, peace & happiness are personal. If i remember, it was Wittgenstein(G.H. Hardy thought too) who said
    relationship between two men is highly spiritual than between man-woman!

    when it comes to sex, people don't even discuss in an adult way. Men are shy to talk if there are some females around and vice versa. They don't even talk superficially let alone Anatomy of Male & Female body parts which require knowledge of Medicine. HPV(human papilloma virus) approximately accounts for 70% of all cervical cancers in women and this virus is acquired only through sex in a man-woman relationship while penile cancer is very rare!

    Recently i read a personal story of a guy(who is gay) from IITM and how he had to go through a lot in explaining his emotions to his own family members. I started laughing when i read his Physician's reaction to his gayness! His story made me cry. My heart goes out to that young guy.

    First and foremost in any relationship(it doesn't have to be marital), there has to be mutual consent/respect. In sex, this follows the primary rule 'age' of the 'two' involved. An adult can befriend a small kid in the purest way. But wrt sex, kids(i will include even adults) lack the 'critical/rational/logical' thinking to accept or give consent to the other. The partners involved must be atleast 18 or older, also need to have some knowledge of sex. In India, even the opposite sex get married as per the wishes of parents(who don't even understand their own minds and think they understand others) without the art/scientific knowledge of sex and lead a compromised and confused life forever and there are many billionaire spiritualists(incl some sexy swamijis!) who salvify these people. Through blind sex, we have exploded the population. In a rape/murder, both sides don't agree eye to eye. One person acts 'insanely' disregarding the other person's esteem/emotions for his/her own selfish motives.

    Even in US, teenage sex trafficking is a growing disease which is different from adult prostitution. The FLDS Texan, in the name God/religion, was abusing 12-15 yr old girls. Man-Man(or woman-woman) relationship is not accepted socially by many people in the name of God! Poor God, how much headache can he handle? He must be laughing at the human species. Although Einstein humbly said he only knows how nature works not the human mind(when he was asked to become the President of Israel), he had the audacity to be certain about the 'infiniteness' of the human stupidity. I think God spoke some golden statements through Einstein:-) Kudos to Milton:mind in its own place can make hell of a heaven and a heaven of hell.

    i call that mind itself as the mysteriousness of God. One should follow Kurt Godel's approach in debates:-)

    Disclaimer: It is my wild guess that some men(women) get attracted to children sexually for a simple reason that they didn't experience love in their childhood. I'm not justifying their act but trying to read why their mind is acting that way! Every human being is in the pursuit of love and happiness. As we grow older we lose all our innocence and become adulterated. that's why we are called as adults! Instead of trying to address the problems and curing or alleviating the symptoms/illness, we only magnify and complicate them.

    thanks abinandanan for posting my reply. Thanks if you don't also:-)