Prof. Rasal Singh

The newly appointed first female Vice-Chancellor of JNU, Prof. Shantishree Dhulipudi Pandit has been the subject of controversy in recent times. She is the first woman educationist to be appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of this reputed higher education institution of the country, which celebrated its golden jubilee just three years back. Coming from a backward  community of south india, she is also an alumna of this University. That is why this achievement is especially welcome and commendable. But her appointment has not gone down well with most left-liberal intellectuals, social activists and elitist politicians, like Yogendra Yadav, Varun Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor to name a few.

Prof. Shantishree, after being nominated as the Vice-Chancellor, released a press statement about her functioning, priorities and future plans. Highlighting the inaccuracies of English language and grammatical mistakes in her statement, a self proclaimed scholar of English, Varun Gandhi raised questions on her, saying “littered with grammatical mistakes.” He later on adds that “such mediocre appointments serve to damage our human capital and our youth’s future.” Similarly, Yogendra Yadav took a dig at her and tweeted, “Introducing the new VC of JNU–clearly a role model of scholarship for its students and faculty.” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also ridiculed Shantishree by saying that “there is someone at JNU who could benefit from your (English) tuition.” While doing post-mortem of her statement, if these protestors had paid attention to her expressions, thoughts and attitudes instead of English language and grammar, then their protest would have been more rational and justified. Perhaps the opposition might have forgotten that Language is just a medium of communication. It is not the prime subject to be emphasized. The medium cannot substitute the meaning. Focusing more on language rather emotions is the fruitage of superiority complex.

It is worth mentioning that apart from JNU, Shantishree was born in St. Petersburg and has received her higher education from Presidency college, Chennai and California State University. She has the knowledge of more than half a dozen of Indian languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Konkani etc. Her parents were also highly placed and educated. Prior to this appointment, she was also the Vice-Chancellor of Savitribai Phule University, Pune. The point to be considered is that why is there so much opposition to such an educated and enlightened Professor Shantishree Dhulipudi Pandit? What is being said and shown; Is that the real reason for the protest or is there something else? An in-depth examination of the reasons for this protest reveals that there are two real reasons for it, first, the cocktail supremacy of the left-congress ideology and secondly the elitist and anglicized superiority complex.

Actually, the opposition is not being mad against Prof. Shantishree but the ideology to which she is associated. She is a believer of the Sanatana culture and an ideologue of nationalist ideology. Jawaharlal Nehru University has been a bastion of leftist ideology since its inception. It is a well-known and accepted fact that there was an invisible placard prohibiting entry at the gates of JNU for students and teachers of nationalist ideology. Former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. M. Jagdish Kumar had tried to balance the left supremacy in his tenure of 6 years with unprecedented ideological struggle. Now there is some scope for nationalist students, teachers and ideas there. Shantishree is also likely to make an academic space for other ideas to flourish by removing the overcast fog of a particular ideology. Therefore, the concern is not about the declining academic standard of JNU, but the gradual collapse of the ‘Red Fort’.

University is not a place of fortification of a particular ideology. Hence, Prof. Jagdish Kumar overthrew the placard of prohibition. JNU is in India and is run with the taxes paid from the hard- earned money of Indians. Then how can it be banned to talk about India’s culture in its premises! Why and for how long would the entry of those who raised the slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ remain prohibited against those who raised slogans of ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ and Kashmir’s Independence? Along with Marx, Mao and Che Guevara, the names of Swami Vivekananda, Veer Savarkar and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay are now being heard in the campus. Actually, this opposition is not against Shantishree. It is against Swami Vivekananda, Veer Savarkar and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay. It is against the slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram.’ It is against the Sanatana culture, Indian values and philosophy.

The second reason for the opposition of Prof. Shantishree is the feudalist-elitist mindset that limits the participation of Dalits, Backwards and Women. This is the thinking which obstacles the way of women’s reservation proposal for proper representation of women. The anti-women mentality of those playing the drums of women empowerment gets exposed frequently in such cases. Under the guise of self-declared high standards of merit, this conspiracy to perpetuate the deprivation of the marginalized classes has been exposed by the opposition to the appointment of Prof. Shantishree. It is the colonial and elitist mentality that considers the knowledge of English language as the ultimate criterion of merit and competency. Under the guise of this so-called merit, it despises, relegates and hunts down the deprived classes. These elite scholars, who opposed a woman with outstanding credentials like Shantishree, would have sat on a dharna on the appointment of the first-generation countryside Dalit woman of Hindipatti, declaring her an infiltrator! This is the self-possessed nobility which does not allow the concept of equality, social justice, harmony and equal opportunities propounded by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar to come to fulfilment. Even after 75 years of Independence, India’s education system is still in the clutches of such Macaulay influenced genes. Shantishree in her statement has expressed her resolution to establish India-centric thinking and narrative while implementing the National Education Policy-2020. The biggest achievement of Shantishree’s tenure would be that, without heeding such baseless criticism, she should Indianize education by freeing it from the clutches of such Macaulay-putras.

(The  author is Dean, Studens’ Welfare, Central University of Jammu.)