Madhu Kishwar named to JNU council as School of Arts expert, Dean objects

The move to appoint Madhu Kishwar hasn’t gone down well with a section of the faculty, including the Dean of SAA.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: May 9, 2017 11:40 am
madhu kishwar, madhu kishwar JNU council, madhu kishwar School of Arts expert, Madhu Kishwar, academic and writer. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal

JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar has nominated scholar-activist Madhu Kishwar to the university’s Academic Council (AC) to represent the School of Arts & Aesthetics (SAA) as an outside expert for two years.

As an AC member, Kishwar will have the power to decide on matters related to JNU’s academic policies. The university will hold its 143rd AC meeting on May 9.

Sources said Kishwar was sent an official letter on May 3 to attend the meeting which is expected to debate changes in the university admissions policy including deep cuts in MPhil and PhD seats.

Kishwar, founding editor of Manushi, is a graduate of Miranda House and JNU and has widely researched and written on issues of gender and politics. In 2014, she published Modi, Muslims and Media: Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat.

The move to appoint Kishwar hasn’t gone down well with a section of the faculty, including the Dean of SAA. Some teachers criticised Kishwar’s nomination saying her name was not among the list of experts provided by the School to the V-C. Every School is required to suggest at least four names from outside the university from which the V-C usually picks one.

When contacted, SAA Dean Bishnupriya Dutt said: “We were given a letter asking us to suggest names of experts pertaining to the discipline. We sent six names of people who are prominent in the field of arts. Her (Kishwar’s) name wasn’t part of the list because she has nothing to do with the study of the arts.”

“We are very confused and bewildered why these names were rejected and somebody who has no connection with our discipline was selected. It has never happened before in the 17 years of this school’s existence. Until date, one of the names — and usually the first name on the list — is the one that has been selected by the V-C. We have asked the Registrar the reason why this happened; I am sure they have a logical explanation for this,” Dutt said.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Kishwar said she was unaware of her nomination and that she had not applied for the same.

On the Dean’s criticism that she had “no connection” with the School’s discipline — cinema studies, theatre & performance studies, and visual studies — Kishwar said: “I have made several documentaries, at least 13 of them, which have been screened on Doordarshan. I am also working on a book on Bollywood, as well as a book and film on India’s traditional art performers. I have also written countless film reviews. Not that I care about the uproar but they should at least look at my CV before they speak nonsense.”

Said JNUTA president Ayesha Kidwai: “The VC has cited some mysterious rule from 2005 and illegally given himself the powers to nominate members from outside the list provided by schools.”

Denying any irregularity, JNU Rector Chintamani Mahapatra said: “There are many provisions in the JNU statutes which give the V-C the power to nominate people to different committees, including the AC. Whether a V-C is going to nominate on his own or take the advice of the Dean or the School is up to him. This is hundred per cent legal.”

Mahapatra added that to expect the V-C to only pick from the list provided by the School would be a “restriction of his powers”.

Asked about the Dean’s objection, he said, “I don’t know why they (teachers) are saying this. If we start evaluating all the past names, then anyone can be similarly blamed. Who’s going to decide who is the best person in a particular field? Every teacher knows that specialisations are very broad; nobody is chosen only on the basis of a narrow specialisation.”

Earlier, art critic B N Goswami; art historian Tapti Guha Thakurta; and, most recently, Ravi Vasudevan from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a film studies scholar, have represented SAA in the AC.

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