New Delhi: A day after students and teachers were assaulted at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and property damaged on the campus, the pressure is now mounting on the Ministry of Human Resource Development to sack the vice-chancellor, Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar.
Kumar’s tenure has been a controversial one — right from the 2016 sedition row, to the November incident where HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ got stuck for a few hours during the JNU convocation, to the ongoing row over increased hostel fees, which have resulted in non-stop protests by students since October.
However, Kumar wasn’t even the HRD ministry’s top choice when he was appointed the JNU V-C in 2016, according to an official document accessed by ThePrint. The minister at the time, Smriti Irani, was not in favour of appointing him, since Kumar was teaching at IIT-Delhi then, and Irani felt he didn’t fit the university system.
Irani had recommended the name of scientist V.S. Chauhan, but Kumar’s name was also on the four-name shortlist sent to then-President Pranab Mukherjee. And Kumar’s was the name the President chose.
As a rule, the President is not bound to follow the recommendation of the HRD minister, but officials say it is the usual practice.
Joint secretary S.S. Sandhu’s note had informed the President: “Of the panel of four candidates, Prof. Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar is Professor of Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi. The IIT system differs fundamentally from that of a university, including in the culture, structure and functioning.
“Two persons, namely Prof. R.N.K. Bamezai and Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, belong to JNU itself and are thus insiders and would be having an insider’s perception and outlook, and not an outsider perception that may benefit JNU by bringing about enrichment, academic development and new academic culture, techniques, methodologies etc,” the note added.
“Padmashri V.S. Chauhan has considerable academic and administrative experience of the university system, both in India and abroad. He has rich research experience and has guided many research students. Having held the posts of director general and director of ICGEB for a number of years, he is endowed with proven administrative acumen and experience of the management of research and teaching institutions.”
Irani’s recommendation in the note read: “In light of the position explained above, Prof. V.S. Chauhan would appear to have the most credentials, experience, academic attainments, recognition and exposure, hence his name may be strongly recommended.”
RSS link, which he denies
Jagadesh Kumar completed his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from IIT-Madras, and has worked in the field of nanoelectronic devices, nanoscale device modelling and simulation, and semi-conductor devices.
When he was appointed the JNU V-C, it was said that he was associated with the RSS — a link he denied, saying he had only attended an event at IIT-Delhi organised by RSS affiliate Vijnana Bharati.
Jagadesh Kumar also attended the third India Ideas Conclave organised in Goa by the India Foundation, an independent think-tank that has ties with the BJP.
His views on a number of issues reflect those of the BJP and RSS. For instance, during the 2018 convocation address, he stressed on the need for the students to engage with issues like illegal immigrants “posing a threat to national security”.
“Your generation has to engage with society more closely as compared to your predecessors, simply because the challenges our human societies face today are enormous — climate change, food security, energy security, clean water scarcity, health risks, degrading bio-diversity, man-made and natural disasters, terrorism, illegal immigrants posing a threat to national security and so on,” Kumar said.
He also highlighted the need for “improving quality of life rather than standard of living, working towards spiritual development rather than just material security”, echoing the RSS.