A social media post by Delhi University Professor Rakesh Kumar Pandey has disturbed a section of students and teachers. In a Facebook post, Pandey, a professor of physics at Kirori Mal College, alleged a “marks jihad” by the Kerala education board. He alleged that the university had been forced to “over-admit” students in particular courses because they all had “100% marks from Kerala board”.
Pandey, a former president of RSS-affiliated National Democratic Teachers’ Front, reiterated before reporters that the “inexplicable flow of students” from the southern states to DU could not be taken as a “normal, unintentional or a benign development”.
The professor alleged, “It seems some plan has been in operation for two-three years. One can connect this with the loosening hold of those aligned to the political left on universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University. They, therefore, now want to spread to Delhi University.”
He dismissed the improbability of a link between the higher number of students from a particular state with the marking system of the state board. “Due to the pandemic, the number of students with 100% aggregates may have increased this year, but this trend was visible even earlier,” he said, adding that DU should conduct entrance examinations in order to stop students from “trying to exploit the criteria” in merit-based admissions.
In a separate statement, the KMC professor said, “Love done with the intention other than love is love jihad and marks allocation with the intention guided by reasons other than academics is marks jihad.”
Delhi University’s Students’ Federation of India, a wing of the CPI(M), was critical of the post. Convener of SFI at DU Akhil KM said, “We condemn the post where Pandey disparages the Kerala board for the commendable work of its students and uses terms such as ‘marks jihad’.”
Several teachers expressed their displeasure with the post. Rajesh Jha, a former member of DU’s Executive Committee, said, “DU has a time-tested method of admissions. It is a central university and it does not matter whether the student is from Kerala or West Bengal or elsewhere. We cannot allow such discriminatory and volatile terms to be used against students. The high cutoffs reflect India’s higher education system. If there is an issue with the evaluation system, then it is up to the policymakers to see how to deal with it.”
Echoing the sentiment of Jha, Nandita Narain, a professor at St Stephens’ College, said, “Such remarks are condemnable. There is a problem with the marking system, yes, but that is there in many parts of the country, not just one state. It is unfair to allege that one particular board is giving inflated marks. Rather than biased comments, one should address aspects like investing more in education and increasing the number of colleges.”
Abha Dev Habib, a professor at Miranda House, too felt it was unfortunate such terms had been used. “It is important to address the problem of high marks given by all boards,” she said. “Moderation of marks should be done to make scores more acceptable and avoid long-term damages. Many boards are giving high marks these days; one cannot single out a particular state.”
Professor justifies ‘marks jihad’ coinage
But Prof Pandey has his justification for the coinage “marks jihad”. “A majority of the students from Kerala are not comfortable with either English or Hindi. They are wasting their career and money here,” he told Kerala-based media house Mathrubhumi.
“You need support from powerful people to score 100% in bulk,” he said, adding, “I am not talking about a student or two.”
Pandey said living in a place like Delhi was an expensive proposition, which means these students are getting money from somewhere.
While “jihad” is associated with Islam, Pandey explained that his coinage “marks jihad” was aimed at spreading awareness about the influence of communist ideology on the campus.