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DU Professor's 'Marks Jihad' Remark Against Kerala Students Leads to Protests

Rakesh Pandey, a member of a right-wing teachers’ group, made the Islamophobic remark.

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"A few teachers of DU are mentally handicapped. They are not mentally fit to teach students. We hope they get well soon and we demand an apology for all Kerala students and suspension of Rakesh Pandey," says National Students' Union of India (NSUI) President Neeraj Kundan.

Delhi University students are enraged at a scathing Islamophobic remark made by their professor accusing high-scoring students from the Kerala board of 'Marks Jihad'.

These students, many of whom continue to have a problem with the Kerala board's structure of scoring, do not believe that labelling it 'Marks Jihad' is an acceptable way to deal with this problem.

"By using the word 'Jihad', he tried to portray the students of Kerala as terrorists. This is really unacceptable," said Sneha Sarah Shaji, the head of NSUI's Kerala Student Fraternity. "If there are more students from Kerala who aspire to learn at top central universities, that doesn't make them 'marks jihadis'!"
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#MarksJihad

Rakesh Kumar Pandey, a member of the National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), a right-wing teachers’ group, and a professor at Kirori Mal College in Delhi University, wrote on Facebook:

“A college had to admit 26 students in a course having 20 seats only because they all had 100 percent marks from the Kerala board. For the last few years, Kerala board is implementing #MarksJihad."

“The phenomenon of Kerala board giving 100% to students in Class 12 is not normal. These students cannot converse in Hindi or English properly yet they are choosing to come to Delhi University. There is some conspiracy and plan behind this. Kerala is known to be a Leftist hub. They had JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) under their control but DU (Delhi University) could not be under their grip. They know it is easy to get in DU if students have 100% marks and there must be some reason that they are occupying campus colleges,” Pandey had told Hindustan Times.

In his blog, Pandey has written: "For the past several years left politics has failed to impress the students of DU and recently they have witnessed worrying signs of decline in their popularity. These statistics must also alert the policymakers as the rare possibility of scoring a perfect hundred in Class XII examinations that was unimaginable a couple of years ago is becoming worryingly common now. Let Delhi University learn the lesson fast and adopt the recommendation of the New National Education Policy 2020 to implement entrance examination for undergraduate courses from the next year. This would be enough to spoil any game plan of the forces, trying to occupy the ideological space in DU using their new-found marks-manipulation strategy."

Among other things, Pandey also suggested that the Delhi University should hold entrance examinations to stop the misuse of the ‘merit’ admissions based on Class 12 marks.

'Not Acceptable': Students Claim Pandey Has Discriminated Against Them Before As Well

The students are planning a protest on Friday, 8 October, to demand an apology from Pandey. They say that all students of the university stand together and such polarising remarks will not be tolerated.

"This is not the first time this professor has made such statements. Even in his classes, he pulls up students who are from the Kerala state board, many students have reported such behaviour earlier also," said NSUI's Kerala Student Fraternity head Sneha Shaji.

"This is not acceptable. We are here like other students, we cleared a cut-off according to the DU rules," she added.

"Students from other states always face problems during admission time. Many professors are not even ready to speak in English to those students who don't know how to speak in Hindi."
Sneha Sarah Shaji, Head, NSUI's Kerala Student Fraternity

What Led to This?

After the first cut-offs, all admissions under this list were concluded on Wednesday, 6 October. In this round of admissions, most popular colleges had nearly a 100 percent cut-off for several of their popular courses.

The largest number of seats grabbed under these seemingly unreal cut-offs were by students from the Kerala state board. Out of 206 students who got admissions against unreserved seats, nearly 95 percent were from the Kerala State Board, according to a report by The Indian Express. A majority of whom have scored a perfect 100 percent in their state board exams.

And this led to a lot of confusion amongst students, teachers, and admission boards.

Are Students From Kerala State Board Scoring Higher?

The Delhi University considers the marks scored in Class 12 as a qualifying metric for the cut-offs. A CBSE student would have to calculate their percentage based on how much they scored in their four best subjects. For several courses, the cut-off is different if the students have studied certain specific subjects for their 12th board exams.

The Kerala state board, however, does this differently. The board considers a student's percentage in Class 11 and 12 to calculate the final percentage. The average score is considered to be the final score. But when this mark sheet is looked at to see if the student qualifies for DU seats, only their scores for Class 12 are seen, and not the average.

So, while a student might've scored a lesser percentage for the Kerala state board, if their mark sheet shows a perfect score in the 12th standard, they are eligible for admissions to DU.

'DU Can't Change Its Systems'

"This is not how a university can work. We are a central university and if we have put out a process for everyone, we will have to stick to it. Blaming it on the university is not a solution, no system is flawless," said professor Rajesh Jha, the former joint secretary of the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA). "There is a larger problem at hand that needs to be dealt with," he added.

On Monday, 4 October, all admissions were stalled and over a hundred admissions of students from the Kerala state board were held up. The university's central admissions team held a meeting to discuss whether this calculation should change for Kerala state board students and include Class 11 marks also. But it was concluded that the central ministry would maintain a universal process for all.

So, while the Delhi University seems to be sticking to its processes. Other students are not too happy to see a considerable chunk gone from these limited seats in DU.

‘Grading System is Unfair, but Remarks Like ‘Marks Jihad’ Are Not Cool'

"When I took admissions, we had 97 students in our batch, nearly 40-45 of whom were from the Kerala state board," says Paridhi Gaur, a third-year Political Science student from Hindu college.

"The language in which Professor Pandey made this remark is not acceptable and we demand an apology for students from the Kerala state board. There are ongoing protests in our department also," she added.

While Gaur finds these remarks unsettling, she also believes that there are larger issues at hand that need to be dealt with.

"I scored 99.25 percent from CBSE but I still could not manage to get a seat in the hostel. Some other student with a 100 percent score from Kerala got it instead," she said.

"There needs to be better systems in place that create a level playing field for everyone. A universal grading system cannot work for DU, it needs to account for different discrepancies in different state boards. Only then will it be fair for all."
Paridhi Gaur, third-year Political Science student, Hindu college
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'Marks Jihad' Creates a Stir on Twitter

After Pandey's remarks went viral, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted against the use of the term 'Jihad' by the DU professor.

This tweet led to several tweets against Rakesh Pandey.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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