Opposition politicians on Monday criticised newly-appointed Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit for old tweets seeming to condone the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and making disparaging remarks about Christians and Muslims. The tweets had been posted from a Twitter handle in Pandit’s name. On Tuesday, however, Pandit told the Indian Express that she never had a Twitter account.
The Union education ministry appointed Pandit to the post earlier on Monday. She is the first woman to be appointed as the vice chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Shortly after these contentious tweets came to light, the Twitter account in her name was deactivated.
NDTV journalist Gargi Rawat had pointed out that the account had referred to Indian Christians as “rice bag converts” last year.
Fact checker Mohammed Zubair of AltNews posted several screenshots of old tweets by the account. One of the tweets said that Muslims belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam were “radical”, while another tweet used the phrase “mentally ill Jihadists”.
Another tweet posted in May last year, in an apparent reference to farmer leaders Yogendra Yadav and Rakesh Tikait, described them as “parasitic middlemen” and “liars and losers”.
In a tweet about Gandhi’s killing, the user claimed that his assassin Nathuram Godse had “thought action was important and identified the solution for a united India...”.
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) leader Kavita Krishnan also posted screenshots of a number of tweets from the account which described student organisations as “losers from JNU” and “extremist Naxal groups”.
Distancing herself from the Twitter account, Pandit told the Indian Express: “It has been found out that it has been hacked and somebody internally from JNU has done this. The point is, many people are unhappy that I am the first woman V-C.”
She said she never had a Twitter account, but also added that her daughter, a cyber-security engineer, had “closed” her account six years ago while she was applying for some jobs in the US. “...she told me, ‘Mom, you are not going to be on any social media sites.’”
This story was updated on February 9, Wednesday, to include Pandit’s comments to the Indian Express.