New Delhi: ‘Have you ever visited a gaushala’, ‘do you have knowledge of animal and baby ethics’, ‘why not focus on Indian thinkers’.
These are some of the questions that make up Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) criteria to hire professors.
The bizarre interview questions came to light in an email sent by a Delhi University professor to his colleagues in DU and JNU. The email was sent by the Assistant Professor in DU’s Department of English in October and has been accessed by News18.com.
In the email, the professor said he had met the JNU selection committee, which included Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, to present his research on the idea of “aesthetic regime” as proposed by French philosopher Jacques Rancière.
The professor told his colleagues that the Vice-Chancellor kept “nudging” him to end the eight-minute-long presentation and then “shook his head” and said he should instead have focused on “baby ethics and animal ethics”.
“You should pay more attention to different kinds of ethics like baby ethics and animal ethics,” the email quoted V-C Jagadesh Kumar as saying.
When the professor mentioned that his research had found a place in the prestigious New Literary History, the other members of the selection committee reportedly told him to move on from “foreign thinkers” and concentrate on “our own tradition”.
“One gentleman in the group thought that others were being too roundabout it, and directly asked me if I had “generated” any work on “Indian” authors. I told him that I had indeed worked on Bangla literature, and published on the early novels of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. He summarily dismissed it, and said he meant Indians like Panini and Bhartrihari (sic),” the email said.
Signing off the email, the professor said, “Clearly, even Bankim is not enough Indian for him!”
News18.com contacted Vice-Chancellor to elaborate on “baby and animal ethics” and whether research on Indian thinkers was a requirement for hiring. The V-C, however, did not respond.
A similar experience was shared by Devesh Birwal, an Economics professor in the Delhi University who had appeared before a different Selection Committee for the post of Assistant Professor in JNU’s School of Social Sciences.
Gaushalas formed a major part of the interview, Birwal told News18.com. ‘Have you visited a gaushala? Is there a gaushala around your work area?’ were some of the questions thrown at Birwal, who studied economics from JNU and focusses on livestock holding of farmers.
“But in my interview all the interest was on my visit to gaushalas. I was surprised that just because I have studied livestock and animal husbandry I was asked about gaushala. This was also shocking because the government is very seriously working on doubling farmers’ income, in which livestock plays an important part. There could have been questions on my work or the disposal of cattle,” said Birwal.
The panel that Birwal appeared before had three external members — NK Taneja, the V-C of Meerut’s Chaudhary Charan Singh University; Mohal Lal Chhippa, the former V-C of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi Vishwavidyalaya in Bhopal; and Professor Naresh K Sharma, Economics Dean in the University of Hyderabad.
When contacted, VK Taneja said he wasn’t the one who asked the gaushala question, but didn’t remember who did.