The case against DU professor Laxman Yadav
What Delhi University’s summary termination of experienced ‘ad hoc’ teachers is really about
"Talented teachers with decades of experience have been shown the door through sham interviews, to accommodate people affiliated to the RSS,” alleged former Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president Nandita Narayan earlier this month.
She was referring to an “academic massacre” in Delhi University where selection committees terminated services of ‘ad hoc’ teachers in IP College (5 out of 5 in sociology, 6 out of 8 in English, 2 out of 4 in Hindi and 5 out of 6 in geography), Ramjas College (4 out of 8 in commerce, 5 out of 8 in botany and 6 out of 8 in English), and in several other colleges. On 6 December, at least 33 such teachers were handed their termination notices.
Teachers had protested DU’s decision to disregard teaching experience and the API (academic performance index, which is based on marks, PhD, publications and research) while appointing permanent teachers. The selection committees were given a carte blanche to select whoever they wanted without assigning any reason.
With interviews by the selection committees given 100 per cent weightage, all other academic performance indicators were jettisoned. Samarveer Singh, an ad hoc teacher of philosophy at Hindu College for the past six years, was terminated earlier this year. He committed suicide soon after, in February. The DU teachers’ fraternity described it as an institutional murder, but the incident left the university administration unmoved. It also did not make headlines in the media.
A majority of the terminated teachers chose to stay quiet. They feared further vindictive action if they raised their voices. Their future employment prospects would also suffer, they feared. Some have been lucky to get jobs in other universities or in private institutions, but many are apparently still without jobs.
While there is no clarity about the number of ad hoc teachers terminated at DU, the teachers’ association appears to believe that as many as 40 per cent of them have been dropped.
“There is a clear pattern. The first category of teachers dropped are those who were critical of the BJP government on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. Second, there seems to have been a consensus across selection committees to not recruit candidates from minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians,” said Narayan at a media briefing. Relatives of BJP leaders were also apparently being given preference.
“I went to London to pursue higher education and had the option to settle there,” said Shubda Chaudhary, dismissed from the department of mass communication, Indraprastha College. She had received higher education in seven countries and had top API marks, she pointed out. She claimed that being vocal about a bunch of men gatecrashing the college fest in March this year and molesting women students was held against her.
Laxman Yadav, who had been teaching at Zakir Hussain College since 2010, recalled that his appointment was renewed at least 44 times in the last 13 years, each time for four months with a one-day gap in between.
“My API score was 96 out of 100; I had 13 years of teaching experience in the same college; feedback from my students was excellent; and yet the committee decided to terminate my services after a 14-minute interview, which too, in my view, went very well,” Laxman said. The person selected by the panel had an API score of 55 and “zero teaching experience in higher education”, he claimed.
Meanwhile, in Bihar, where thousands of assistant professors were appointed in recent months, the Bihar State University Service Commission (BSUSC) had assigned a weightage of 85 per cent to API and 15 per cent to the interview. Delhi University, on the other hand, despite being told by courts not to give 100 per cent weightage to interviews, stuck to its decision.
Teachers sarcastically suggested that central agencies should be deployed to find out how many principals and heads of department besides university officials, have been regularly attending RSS shakhas. “All these honourable men were appointed when BJP was not in power but have retained their RSS links. They are, however, not being criticised for politicising the campus; but those who oppose the RSS or the government are being singled out,” they alleged.
There were 17,092 sanctioned teaching posts in 40 central universities, the Lok Sabha was informed by former Union minister of state for education Satya Pal Singh on 1 January 2019. As many as 5,606 posts were vacant, he admitted in a written reply. He also put the number of ad hoc teachers in central universities at 443, with 221 in Delhi University alone. Teachers contest this and claim that Delhi University alone had 10,000 teachers, half of whom have been working on an ad hoc basis for years.
“I was advised not to speak up and raise my voice against the termination,” recalls Laxman Yadav. He was told that the establishment would retaliate with vengeance and ensure that he is not employed anywhere else. His colleagues in the college used to call him netaji for talking about Ambedkar, Gandhi and Periyar. “But though they attended RSS shakhas, they did not think they were doing netagiri,” Yadav said with a chuckle.
Delhi University now hosts RSS shakhas, holds yagnas, is setting up a Hindu Study Centre and has a temple. The dispensation in charge makes it clear that it will not put up with opposing points of view or alternative discourses. By creating a band of mediocre and spineless teachers, Yadav said, we are creating mediocre and weak students.
Dr Ratan Lal of Hindu College had hosted a press meet with the terminated teachers and recalled that the police visited his house and called him up to inquire about the names of the people who would attend. A constable was sent that evening to collect photos of the event. “The situation is such that I cannot even invite people home for a discussion,” he fumed.
If an independent inquiry is held, half the officials in DU will find themselves in jail, he bitterly added. “Delhi University professors go on TV and spread hatred and vilify minorities, and yet the DU administration does nothing; but if we speak of the Constitution, about Ambedkar etc., and criticise the RSS even outside the university and classrooms, we are seen as troublemakers,” said several teachers.
In and around his village in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Laxman Yadav says, he was the first to obtain a PhD degree. A gold medallist from Allahabad University, Yadav says that publicly funded universities and the quota for the backward classes had created scholars and teachers like him, and he had decided to teach to repay the debt.
In 2013, he had appeared for the UPSC exam. Among the 980 selected that year, only 27 were from non-English medium backgrounds. “There were protests, and in June that year, there was a night-long protest outside the PM’s house, in which I took part,” Yadav says.
Others like Naman (name changed on request), a teacher at Hindu College for the past three years, claim they were also terminated because of a social media post following a protest. Arun Kumar, teaching at Lakshmibai College since 2016, was terminated in December 2022 but has since been employed by a Bihar university. A colleague of Kumar, Tanu (name changed on request), also teaching at Lakshmibai College since 2015, was similarly terminated after being labelled an ‘activist’.
Candidates known to be opposed to the BJP and the RSS are asked inappropriate questions in interviews and attempts are made to mock and intimidate them, alleges a teacher who requested anonymity. In Delhi University, it is common to hear of people paying as much as Rs 30–40 lakh to secure a permanent position as an assistant professor, he added.