Pune prof first woman vice chancellor of JNU; purported Twitter handle, tweets deleted

The Ministry of Education (MoE) on Monday announced Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit, a professor of political science at Savitribai Phule Pune University, as the new Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She will be the first woman to head the institution

pandit’s appointment, The Indian Express was made despite her parent university’s disclosure to the Union government that her raises were withheld twice for alleged misconduct.

She succeeds M Jagadesh Kumar who: recently chaired the University Grants Commission (UGC)† Her appointment order was issued on February 4 and is for a period of five years.

Shortly after the announcement of her appointment, there was a stir on social media over controversial tweets from an unverified Twitter handle in her name (@SantishreeD). The handle, which featured tweets calling Jamia Millia Islamia and St Stephen’s College “community campuses,” insulting Indian Christians and describing civil rights activists as “mentally ill jihadists,” was removed after the uproar.

Until Monday night, Pandit had not acknowledged the controversy or responded to requests from The Indian Express for comment.

Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit holds the charge for 5 years

An alumnus of JNU from where she completed her MPhil and PhD in International Relations in 1986 and 1990, Pandit was born in Russia to author-journalist turned civil servant, Dr. Dhulipudi Anjaneyulu and Mulamoodi Adilakshmi, a professor of Tamil and Telugu at the Leningrad Oriental Faculty Department. She graduated from Presidium College, Madras and was a gold medalist.

Speaking six languages, including Sanskrit, the polyglot began her teaching career in 1988 at Goa University as a political science teacher. In addition to her current position as a professor of politics at the SPPU and as a guide for several MPhil and PhD students, she has taught articles on mass media, media research, politics and communication at the Department of Communication Sciences of SPPU.

Pandit has published three books, several booklets, contributed nearly 100 chapters in edited books, and more than 180 research papers and publications in renowned political science and foreign policy journals.

In a statement Monday, Pandit said its immediate focus would be on providing “clean governance, a student-friendly and gender-sensitive environment for academic excellence”. She said JNU would strive to implement the new national education policy and focus on “constructing Indo-centric narratives”.

She has been publicly critical of what she believes to be false stories in Indian history. In a webinar commemorating the 126th birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, recently hosted by the Political Science Department of Sri Venkateswara College in Delhi, Pandit criticized the NCERT textbooks for paying too much attention to the Mughals and the “Nehru- Gandhi Dynasty”. She also claimed that the violence witnessed during “Islamic invasions” had been erased from history.

“The myth that the Indian National Movement was extremely nonviolent, this seems to be a carefully constructed story… The contribution of revolutionaries to the Indian National Movement has been obliterated… You can agree or disagree with them, but how can you say this story does not exist? † Savarkar was a revolutionary, you can agree with him or not, but read Savarkar before condemning him. That’s my plea,” she said.

In its vigilance report to the MoE, Savitribai Phule Pune University stated that authorities had imposed a fine for permanently withholding Pandit’s five raises effective July 1, 2011, and another two increases as of July 1, 2017.

This sentence was imposed after an investigation by a retired judge in 2009 found her guilty of not following the rules prescribed by the UGC and AICTE while granting admission to PIO (Persons of India Origin) students under the excess quota from 15% from the years 2002 to 2007 when she held the position of Director of the International Student Center. Pandit had denied the charges against her at the time.

According to a former MoE official, the purpose of obtaining a vigilance report before the final appointment of a VC is to ensure that the candidate has the highest level of competence, integrity and morals.

“If allegations of wrongdoing have been proven against a candidate and he or she has been punished by the parent institution, then the government usually avoids such appointments as UGC regulations require that only persons of the highest level of morale, integrity and values ​​be appointed as vice-chancellor,” said the former officer.

Pandit’s name for the job, among a few others, was recommended by a three-member search-and-selection committee chaired by Professor KK Aggarwal, retired IAS officer Yogendra Narain and academic and former MLC Ashok Modak the chairman of the National Accreditation Council.

When contacted by The Indian ExpressAggarwal and Narain said they were not aware of the investigation against Pandit, nor of the punishment imposed at the time of her interaction with the panel.

“I was not aware of this and I can only vouch for myself. This was never discussed (during the interaction). Besides, we can’t even bring it up unless it’s brought to our attention,” Aggarwal said.

“Our job is to interview the candidate based on her qualifications. The vigilance part comes after the shortlist of candidates and that is done by MHRD (now known as the Ministry of Education). The MHRD takes the final call based on its inquiries (from the parent university). We were never told this,” says Narain.

Higher Education Secretary Sanjay Murthy did not respond to calls and text messages from The Indian Express about why Pandit’s appointment was made despite the university’s disclosure in its vigilance report.

However, a ministry official said that once an investigation is over and the sentence is handed out, it cannot be held against the candidate.

Sajal Jain
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