Centre Appoints New JNU VC with ‘Worrying’ Track Record

New Delhi: After Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar’s chaotic and prolonged term as Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the future appears to hold no respite for the premier institute as a controversial figure, Shantishree Dhulipudi Pandit has been appointed as the new VC.
Pandit is currently a professor of politics and public administration and an M.Phil guide at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. She teaches papers like mass media audiences, media research, politics and communication at the university’s Department of Communication Studies.
According to The Wire, Pandit is known for her proximity with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But what makes her stand out are the unequivocal calls for genocide allegedly made by her on social media in the past. For instance, Pandit on Twitter (the handle @SantishreeD was deleted on Monday) has advocated persecution of civil rights activists, branding them as “mentally-ill jihadists” in “Chinese” style, ostensibly referring to the alleged detention camps in east China. Though the Twitter handle was unverified (had no blue tick) but the string of controversial and hateful tweets had never been reported or denied by Pandit.
On Monday, soon after the news of her appointment as VC became public, several took Pandit to task on her alleged controversial utterances on Twitter. Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale pointed out that she had referred to Indian Christians as “rice bag converts” in a tweet last year.
Fact checker Mohammed Zubair tweeted several screenshots of old tweets by Pandit’s ‘handle’. In another tweet posted in May last year, in an apparent reference to farmer leaders Yogendra Yadav and Rakesh Tikait, the new JNU VC described them as “parasitic middlemen” and “liars and losers”.
In a tweet about Gandhi’s killing, the handle claimed that his assassin Nathuram Godse had “thought action was important and identified the solution for a united India…”.
What is worrying, especially in the context of JNU, is the new VC’s clear reported dislike for organised student groupings inside the campus. During the anti-fee hike movement in early 2020, she had allegedly tweeted in response to BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya how “Losers from JNU…have lost control. Ban these extremist Naxal groups from campuses. Stop funding communal campuses like Jamia and St. Stephens.”
After the outburst on social media, her ‘unverified’ Twitter account was deleted. Till the time of writing, there had been no official statement by her delinking herself with the tweets, screenshots of which have been doing the rounds of social media.
The Union government’s propensity to appoint academics with Sangh Parivar’s credentials in top positions of central institutions is evident in Pandit’s case too, as it seems to have glossed over allegations of corruption against her.
In 2011, DNA reported that over 1,800 Indian students were given admission in various professional courses between 2002 and 2007 for the seats reserved for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) when Pandit was the director of the International Students Centre (ISC) in Pune University.
With her appointment as JNU’s VC, sources told The Wire that her name was cleared after evaluating three candidates for the position. Apart from Pandit, who is a JNU alumna, professor in Centre for European Studies in the School of International Studies Gulshan Sachdeva, and New Delhi-based Inter University Accelerator Centre (IUAC)’s director Avinash Chandra Pandey were also considered. However, Pandit’s ideological weight is said have tilted the balance in her favour.
First published by Newsclick.