How Delhi University deliberately excludes ethnic, religious, linguistic minorities from its campuses?

Systemic exclusion and persisting discrimination of Muslims and other marginalised students in central university spaces are not uncommon. Stories of prejudicial standards of professors, institutional murders, constant attack on the basis of race, religion and region of minorities makes their number abysmally low in these educational spaces where upper-caste nexus ensure their dominance.

According to data presented by Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru, only 2.1 percent candidates admitted to the PhD programmes were from the ST category, 9 percent were from SC and 8 percent from OBC categories from 2016-2020. It was the same for integrated PhD programmes: 9 percent of the total admitted candidates were from SC category, 1.2 percent from ST and 5 percent from OBC categories. In the 17 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), 1.7 percent of total PhD candidates were from ST category, 9 percent from SC and 27.4 percent from OBC. These trends are similar or even worse in other institutes like NITs and IISERs.

Delhi University, one of the oldest and prestigious central universities of the country, saw a hike in number of students from Kerala in the academic year 2020 and 2021. This made news not for its achievement in reclaiming these historically dominant Hindi-speaking upper-caste venues, but for insulting phrases and sentiments of Islamophobia, anti-communism, and South-Indian hegemony. With headlines such as “Kerala students are now dominating DU because anyone can get 100% marks in Kerala Board”, completely nullifying the efforts of students. The huge number of admission from Kerala not only became peculiar due to the regional remoteness of the state from the national capital but more due to the admission of OBC students from the state’s Malabar region. The itch that followed was not only contained within regional extremists but also among Islamophobes who couldn’t stand the sight of Hijab cladded students occupying campuses of eminence such as Hindu college, Miranda House etc..of north campus. This further manifested into a series of events that led to the fall of students from Kerala Board by the academic year 2022; the varsity ensured that.

On 5 October 2021, Prof Rakesh Pandey, who is also a member of RSS affiliated National Democratic Teachers Front in a Facebook post coined the term ‘mark jihad’, alleging the proliferated influx of students from Kerala Board in Delhi University amidst the on-going admission process that saw a steep rise in students from Kerala Board in that year compared to previous years. The uproar against the Kerala Board started with the racial and religious hatred spewed in the comments of Professor Rakesh Pandey. The Hindutva group ABVP announced an indefinite strike at DU, to call off admission process in light of assumption that state boards have inflated marks. Delhi University Students’ Union members also joined the sit-in protest demanding action to the alleged excess admission of state-board students i.e Kerala Board students. This then turns out to be the catalyst university was desperately seeking to implement its fascist-motivated agendas that fosters the segregation of Muslims, South-Indians, and non-Hindi speakers from the campus.

Yogesh singh, an RSS affiliate, who assumed charge on 8th october 2021 as Delhi University’s 23rd Vice Chancellor sped up the process to constitute a nine member panel committee entrusted with the objective to study why the Kerala Board students secured admission in such high numbers in DU. The panel consisted of DS Rawat, Dean Students’ Welfare Rajeev Gupta; Poonam Varma, Principal of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies; Savita Roy, Principal of Daulat Ram College; and DU Registrar Vikas Gupta. With cases booked against DU Registrar Vikas Gupta and Daulat Ram College principal Poonam Verma for firing of a Dalit ad-hoc assistant professor for her opinions and stands on certain issues, especially those against the government, this panel fulfils the Union government’s Hindutva agenda to sustain premier institutions of the country as Brahminical Agraharas.

The report so constituted by the committee found that there was a significant variation in the marking scheme across the state boards in India which were causing anomalies in the admission process. In order to overcome this problem CUET was subsequently introduced in the year 2022 and while making the announcement, University Grants Commission Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar had said the aim of CUET was to provide equal opportunity to students from across the country who seek admission from different boards and apply from different regions. According to the data on admissions based on the declared cut-off of examination marks, the CBSE (37,767) had the largest intake of students among the 39 school boards from which students had applied, followed by the Kerala Board of Higher Secondary Education (1,890), Haryana Board of School Education (1,824), CISCE (1,606), and Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (1,329) in the year 2021. The CBSE board students had secured nearly 38,000 of the available seats. The Kerala government was the next on the list. However, the students admitted from the Kerala Board were only 5% of those admitted from the CBSE. The Haryana Board was right behind Kerala. However, owing to North-Indian nationalist parochialism, there will be no Haryana-conspiracy to be tweeted. As a result of the implementation of CUET, there was a 40% rise in CBSE board students and a decline in regional boards. The elite CBSE has its highest concentration of schools in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which again determines the class, caste and religious composition of spaces like Delhi University. CBSE yet again corners the seats in institutions like DU to homogenise the class composition of these spaces into a single denomination: North-Indian, Hindi speaking, upper caste and it unfortunately doesn’t transgress the proposed substantial objectivity by the committee nor pose threat to Brahmanical conscience.  As students await the second test of the CUET exam, central universities such as Delhi University must ensure substantial representation of different cultures, regions and races in these campus spaces.

Huda Ayisha is a student at Delhi University