Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), India’s top-ranked university for several years is reportedly discriminating PhD applicants from SC, ST, OBC, and Muslim categories by giving low marks in interviews.

Student organisations in the varsity university students union have called for protests against discrimination in viva-voce in JNU PhD admission. Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association submitted a memorandum to JNU Vice-Chancellor, Director (Admission), and JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) regarding the issue.

JNU PhD entrance has both written and viva voce exams. Candidates scoring high marks in written exams have been given exceptionally low marks in viva voice, as low as 1 to 5 out of 30, students claimed. What makes it more controvert is all these students belong to SC, ST, OBC, and Muslim categories.

BAPSA said it has received testimonials of many JNU PhD admission candidates showing the low and undignified marks they have got on the viva-voce. “The testimonials collected show how the marks are given are not just unjustified, but also humiliating, as well as there is a caste and religion bias for the same,” the group alleged.

While neither the recommendations of Abdul Nafey committee, Rajiv Bhatt committee, and S.K. Thorat Committee are implemented in JNU, nor it is ever brought to extreme care about the discriminations in the viva-voce in JNU they had researched about and found out, BAPSA’s letter to VC stated.

The recommendations of these committees include reduction of viva-voce from 30 to 15 marks, as well as broad format of the viva-voce to be made public, having one member from reserved categories in the interviewer panels, and selection of an external observer in the viva-voce procedures.

BAPSA conducted a mail campaign in which they requested the applicants to send a screenshot of their entrance result if they think that they have been discriminated against.

“It has come to the notice of JNUSU, testimonies from several candidates who appeared for viva-voce that they have been marked very low marks, especially in cases of the students coming from the marginalized sections and also violation of constitutionally mandate reservation policy,” said JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh.

“This clearly shows the way discrimination has happened in panel for viva-voce especially targeting the students coming from various marginalized sections,” according to Ghosh.

She also requested candidates who feel have been discriminated against to mail the students union.

Fraternity Movement in JNU has also called upon the student community to reject this “long-running Brahmanical practice which has become the hallmark of JNU.”

“These are the same students who scored remarkably well in their objective written exams that have been given poor viva scores, owing to their social background. This undue power with no transparency or accountability must end now. The JNU administration must, without any lag, publish the mark list of all the candidates to ensure transparency,” read Fraternity’s statement.

“The student community ran a powerful movement in 2018 against the UGC Gazette and for the implementation of Abdul Nafey Committee. If the powers that be in the administration and faculty bodies continue their relentless hegemony, it will not be too far in the future that the student community wakes up again this injustice together,” the student group warned.

According to the CRJD JNU unit, the student wing of RJD, “Viva is systematic traumatization.”

“JNUEE PhD results reflect the social injustice and discrimination done in premiere universities where the OBC, SC, ST candidates who are scoring high marks in written exams are institutionally murdered by giving as low as 1 mark out of 30,” the group alleged.

SFI JNU unit called the students to join JNU Students Union’s “DELEGATION TO ADMISSION BRANCH” on 13 December.

“End Exclusionary viva policy in PhD admissions,” AISA JNU urged the authorities.

“The casteist and oppressive faculties are burden to the institution because in all these years they haven’t developed their thinking and rationality. They should resign if the minimum moral left in them,” a research student and BAPSA activist Omprakash Mahato said in a Facebook post.

Waseem R S, another PhD student and national leader of the Fraternity Movement said to Maktoob that the “progressive JNU is a myth.”

“There is always a caste and community line in selecting the students for PhD admissions in JNU, and now it’s in full swing. This is not a post-Modi phenomenon, and the faculties doing this are not merely BJP supporters, but faculties from so-called left-liberal-secular backgrounds,” Waseem said.

Deepika Singh, a PhD student at the Department of Political Studies and an Ambedkarite activist said in a tweet that the authorities have been using viva voice as a tool for systematically discriminating Bahujan students.

“I have heard from savarna students how they were not asked any questions related to research topic, their interviews not lasting more than few minutes and yet I have seen them getting selected with exceptionally high marks in viva voce while Bahujans are given single-digit marks,” Singh tweeted.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, an OBC student activist in JNU and founder of the United OBC Forum, said in his Facebook post that the students from Bahujan communities have been deprived of basic rights. “This is not a new phenomenon,” he said.

BAPSA in their memorandum, demanded 1) release Centre wise lists of candidates called for PhD viva-voce (both for JRF and JNUEE) for the year 2021-2020, their categories, and the dates and time they were called in and appeared, 2) release Centre wise lists of faculties assigned to take viva-voce (both for JRF and JNUEE) for the year 2021-2020, dates and time they took the interviews, and candidates of who they took interview of, 3) release Centre wise list total marks given to the students in the PhD viva-voce (both for JRF and JNUEE) for the year 2021-2020, and the marks they were given by each faculties, 4) explanation of parameters of which marks are allocated into to be assigned to the students appeared for the PhD viva-voce (both for JRF and JNUEE) for the year 2021-2020, and method of calculation of the same and 5) release Centre wise list total marks given to the students in the JNU Entrance Examination for the year 2021-2020.