In September, questions were raised about Delhi University Students’ Union president Ankiv Baisoya’s educational qualifications. Over the last six weeks, its been conclusively proven that Baisoya, who is a masters student in the Department of Buddhist Studies, does not have an undergraduate degree from the university he claims to have procured one from.
Baisoya claims to have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Thiruvalluvar University in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. On October 3, the registrar of Thiruvalluvar University, in a letter to Tamil Nadu’s principal secretary of higher education, stated that Baisoya was never a student of the university. There is no ambivalence there.
Baisoya also does not, as yet, have an undergraduate degree from anywhere else. This quite simply means that he was admitted to the masters programme at Delhi University on false pretences.
A university concerned about its reputation could be expected to act swiftly to dispel any suggestion that it was sanguine about a high visibility student with a fake degree and fake documents continuing as its student. After all, this raises questions about the sanctity of its admissions process and about the quality of its own postgraduate degrees, apart from once again drawing attention to the unsettled questions of the university qualifications of powerful people, including the current prime minister.
But the Department of Buddhist Studies, where Baisoya is a registered student, and the Delhi University administration have shown no interest in settling matters quickly or at all. They seem entirely unconcerned that someone without an undergraduate degree is a masters student at the university.
Head of Buddhist Studies KTS Sarao’s first response was to say he had received 12 fake marksheet complaints about 200 students in the department (which has 231 seats for the Master of Arts programme), and that the complaint against Baisoya would be investigated along with these. Complaints about fake degrees against the majority of students should cause consternation. But it was obvious to anyone following the train of events that Sarao simply wanted to deflect attention from Baisoya.
This unavoidable conclusion was reinforced when Sarao helpfully told journalists on September 24 that in an earlier case of a PhD student who had submitted fake marksheets, the department had filed a police complaint. The question that should have followed was why was the department not doing the same thing in Baisoya’s case?
The PhD student whom the department had acted against was a national secretary of the Congress’ student wing, the National Students’ Union of India. Baisoya is a leading light of the Delhi unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It was the National Students’ Union of India that had set the ball rolling in Baisoya’s case. It had procured a copy of Baisoya’s purported marksheet from Thiruvalluvar University and a formal response from the university stating that the document was fake.
The National Students’ Union of India, it needs to be said, is not motivated by lofty matters like academic standards or the reputation of the university. Its interest is simple: its candidate, who stood second in the elections to the students’ union in September, would likely become president if Baisoya is removed within two months. The head of department, by pointing to the case of the National Students’ Union of India national secretary, was also treating this matter of Baisoya’s fake degree merely as one of student political rivalry.
Overlooking the obvious
The university as a whole has provided cover for Baisoya’s lies. A quick Google search establishes that Baisoya was an undergraduate student in the economics department of Delhi University’s College of Vocational Studies for the same period (2015-2016) that he claimed he was a student at Thiruvalluvar University. Under the University Grants Commission’s rules, an individual cannot be a full-time student at two universities at the same time. Delhi University’s dean of student welfare told reporters that Baisoya had special permission and in any case had not violated norms as he had a degree only from one university.
The College of Vocational Studies’ administration also refused to set the record straight on Baisoya. Off the record, a couple of faculty members said they remembered him as a student because of his “unusual name” and political activities. The various Delhi University teachers’ associations (even those opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party) – which regularly agitate against the university administration for, among other things, lowering standards – have been entirely silent on Baisoya. A few, teaching at campus colleges, said that in so far as the Baisoya issue was discussed, it was characterised as a problem connected with the students’ union elections.
Baisoya displayed remarkable insouciance when questioned by the media about his qualifications in September. Unblinkingly, he said he had been at Thiruvalluvar University, “doing up down” from Delhi, and had studied “many different subjects”, including “English, skill based and core theory”. With stunning self-assurance, he also told journalists that the documents being circulated were fakes created by his political rivals. Since then, he has continued to be an active presence at Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad events in and around Delhi.
Baisoya and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad clearly had the measure of Delhi University.
Every year, thousands of young people from all around the country arrive in Delhi to try and gain admission to undergraduate or postgraduate programmes at Delhi University and its affiliated colleges. In the pool of dying universities in India, DU, as it is widely known, is still regarded as among the best. The Ministry of Human Resource Development calls it a “premier university”. It is certainly one of the best funded universities in the country, and boasts some very good social scientists and even a few good scientists as faculty in some colleges and university departments. Its list of famous alumni in every field of human endeavour is longer than of any extant Indian university.
But Delhi University’s continuing high reputation now rests largely on favourable comparison with other universities that have always been worse funded, have less storied histories and gave up on standards even before they started. There is no other explanation for why Baisoya and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad are able to cock a snook at the university and at what passes for a higher education.