Classmates think Malayalis are leftists: How DU freshmen from Kerala have been battling scorn, abuse over Marks Jihad controversy

In the past few months, Swetha says that there have been multiple instances where she was made to think that she was unworthy of all her academic achievements
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

Earlier this year, when the Kerala government had announced the results of the Class XII board examinations, Swetha* and her family rejoiced. The reason? The 18-year-old was one of the students who had secured a centum in her board examinations. Needless to say that her admission to the University of Delhi to study a bachelor's course was quite hassle-free.

However, over the past few months, Swetha says that there have been multiple instances where she has been made to feel like she was unworthy of all her academic achievements. "There were messages on our class WhatsApp groups saying that the Kerala Board Class XII examination is a political scandal and that anyone could secure a centum there," says Swetha. The freshmen are yet to go to the college physically and are attending classes online. The student, who hails from Thrissur, says that she had messaged her classmate who had sent the derogatory message personally. "I tried to convince him that Kerala's Class XII exams are similar to other boards and that we have secured these marks by working quite hard. But he was convinced that the BJP ruled centre can launch a probe anytime and that the exam 'scandal' can be exposed soon," she says.

It all began in October, when a few DU colleges announced a 100 per cent cutoff for its courses — owing to high marks being awarded after COVID forced the cancellation of board exams — there were reports that said that students from Kerala had secured most of them. This had created a lot of flak. Things took an ugly turn when Dr Rakesh Kumar Pandey, a professor of Kirori Mal College had written a rather controversial post on Facebook and referred to students perpetrating this trend as Marks Jihad.

That wasn't the end. A few days ago, screenshots of group chats where students from Kerala were called 'blacks' and 'trained terrorists' had gone viral on social media. In another screenshot from an online session, a student wrote, "Ma'm, the Keralites took our seats in Delhi University (DU). They are frauds. They got 100 per cent by unfair means and took most of the north campus. Please consider this, throw them out of the North campus. They are just black.”

Coming back to Swetha, did these instances affect her? She says, "I was in a really bad state of mind. I doubted myself many times and thought that I wasn't worthy of my marks. I had attended entrance coaching apart from my school's online classes and studied quite hard for the exams." She says that her parents are also quite worried about her going to the campus in the next few months to attend in-person classes. "They are still quite sceptical. However, our seniors had assured us that everything will be fine," she says, adding that the faculty have been quite supportive towards the students. "A lot of our classmates tend to think that all Malayalis are leftists. This is because students from Kerala rarely join the ABVP," she says.

But this isn't only about COVID and the high marks this year. Ajil, a second-year student of Swetha's college, who also hails from Kerala tells us that these incidents have been happening for quite a few years now. "The same professor had raised these allegations last year too. However, we were told that things will get better once in-person classes begin. Anyone can say anything from behind a screen. We will get to know the real faces of people only after meeting and interacting with them," he says.

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