The cut down in the number of seats for higher research degrees at the Jawaharlal Nehru University is the culmination of a long process that started on February 9 last year, left-wing student leader Umar Khalid has said. “The Narendra Modi government has been an anti-student government since it came to power in 2014. Cutting down on research funding is just a part of a larger witch hunt against free-thinking students,” Khalid told InUth, reacting to a recently introduced University Grants Commission (UGC) circular that critics say would “destroy” the socially inclusive nature of the top-notch liberal arts university.
Beside cutting down on the number of seats for research degrees by 83 percent, the JNU on Tuesday also scrapped a criteria that helped students of backward districts from scoring a seat at the prestigious university. In another admission policy overhaul, the university has also delinked the entrance test for MPhil and PhD courses from the oral interview, with the face-to-face interview now becoming the most important criteria to get into some of these sought-after courses.
Dalit organisations say that the new rules would hit Dalit students especially hard.
“We have taken a strong objection to this change in admission policy at the JNU. This is a deliberate attempt by the Modi government to further marginalise the Dalit students,” Abhay Xaxa, a higher education expert at National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights told InUth.
In a telephonic conversation, Xaxa noted that JNU was one of the few higher educational institutions in the country where there a “level-playing-field” existed.
“This is the first time in its history that the JNU has been touched,” he said.
“Just recently, the President awarded the JNU as best higher educational institution in the country. The new admission rules would affect that status,” he said.
Xaxa said that his organisation, along with allied student groups, would lobby the government in coming days to try force it to retract the latest notification.
Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated student group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Prishad (ABVP) is also opposing the new rules, which it says would “destroy” the JNU.
Saket Bahuguna, the national media co-ordintator at the ABVP, told InUth that his student group had led several delegations to the Union Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry urging it for a rollback. Bahuguna said that the ABVP had been advocating for a “80-20” rule, which would have given at least a 20 percent weightage to the written test in the whole selection process.
“But the Left groups went to the court and thwarted our plans,” Bahuguna alleged.
The ABVP, however, believes that the “anti-national” protests to rock the JNU had no bearing on the government’s decision to introduce new rules.The original circular was introduced in 2010 when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power. The new rules were implemented in the Delhi University in 2012, and the transition there was largely smooth, Bahuguna said. He blamed the JNU administration for not filling up teacher vacancies on time that eventually led to “20-30 scholars ending up under one supervisor.”
The ABVP said it was open to initiate a concerted campaign with left-wing student groups to force the HRD ministry to retract the new rules.
But left-wing leader Khalid called ABVP’s offer as “hypocricy.”
“They pretend they care for the students, even as their leaders sign praises of Narendra Modi all over the campus.”