Published: 10th May 2017
Madhu Kishwar on JNU post issue: They're acting like I was selling Chole-Bhature in Sarojini Nagar Market before this
Madhu Kishwar vehemently maintains that she's not a sanghi and questions why JNU's students are yelling themselves hoarse when her predecessor was 'way less qualified'
On Tuesday, JNU announced that Madhu Kishwar, writer, academic and professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies has been appointed as an outside expert to the Department of Arts and Aesthetics. This decision has not gone down well with a number of students and faculty members of JNU including the Dean. According to reports, technically the department submits a list of names to the Vice Chancellor for the post and the VC takes a pick, but department members claim Kishwar's name was never on the list, causing confusion over her appointment. Some of the criticism is also based on the fact that she has "no experience" in the 'Art and Aesthetics' field, but she vehemently opposes this view.
Kishwar spoke to EdexLive on her new appointment, the criticism, right wing philosophy, left wing drama and the plans she has for the university. Excerpts from a charged chat:
Are you happy to be part of JNU's Academic Council? Were you surprised?
What is there to be happy? It's not a big deal. It's not like I have been made the head of ISRO or the Bombay Stock Exchange. If I had been made the head of NASA, then I would have been surprised. For those jobs, I'm not qualified but here people are saying that I'm not qualified to be part of the academic council, even though I have a 35-year track record and a CV that runs into 70-pages which list out various academic accomplishments of mine. They're acting like I was selling Chole-Bhature in Sarojini Nagar Market.
Raising slogans: JNU students protested against her appointment (Image for representational purposes only)
Do you have plans for the Arts and Aesthetics department since you represent them in the Academic Council?
I'm not going to only be talking about the department, as a member of the academic council we speak overall academic affairs. Dr Manmohan Singh was a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, did he speak only about Assam? Do the members of the parliament discuss only their constituency issues? So I don't have to just discuss issues relating to the department. But if you see my CV, it'll show that I've made over 20 documentaries even on subjects like traditional artisans and art performers. I have even written a lot on films and even have a book on Bollywood. Right now, I 'm also working on a book for ICSSR. If you compare my CV to the previous person who was appointed, Ravi Vasudevan, you'll find he doesn't even have a fraction of my qualifications.
The problem with these people (those opposing her appointment), is that I'm not left-wing. But neither am I a sanghi, I'm not a BJP supporter and I have no association with the party. So why do they pick on me? Because I'm taken seriously and because what I say matters, so they cannot simply trash me.
Why do you think there is opposition to your appointment?
The fact is that I can't just be used as a rubber stamp. The academic council is large and a majority of the council are left-wing people and yet they can't even stomach one Madhu Kishwar. I'm not a missile that I can destroy JNU. I'm not a Napalm bomb or belong to the ISIS. This same university starts yelling and shouting about freedom of speech, so why do they not want me? I'm a well established academic and public figure, so why should I not be chosen?
Do the opposition and criticism bother you?
No, it doesn't. Only some 12-15 people probably belonging to some AISA or something protested when I went. The rest weren't bothered. The only thing these students do is shout slogans, they don't know anything else. Anyway, the academic council only meets three-four times a year so how does it matter? What all this shows is that things are not alright on campus. The leftist gang is feeling insecure, that's the issue. The VC has the right to appoint whoever he wishes to but I haven't even met the VC. I only met him yesterday at the Academic Council meeting and even that I left early.
How do you want things to change in JNU?
JNU should depolarize and issues should be discussed only based on merit and not ideological blinks. Nothing should be predetermined or based on an ideology then the university will be destroyed. There should be no political prejudices or hostility, it should be purely based on merit. But I don't know if the others on the academic council also want the same thing. But things should stop being left-wing or right-wing.
Do you think the government is intruding in the working of the university?
Right now the UGC matter is in court, it's sub judice so nobody has the right to speak on it. We'll wait and see what the court has to say. With regard to the government interference, the last UGC head we had always interfered so much with universities. Honestly, what the previous UGC chairman did was patently illegal, he should be locked in a nuthouse for what he did. But then nobody reacted to him, nobody objected. So why are they bothered now? They just want to keep yelling and shouting about every single thing.