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Why is Indian intelligentsia silent on AAP’s promise to throw non-Delhi students out of Delhi University?

Now we know AAP may never get a chance to implement its agenda. But the seed has been sowed. The intellectual fabric of Delhi University has been placed permanently under stress.

On August 16, 1968, a baby boy was born to proud parents Gobind Ram and Gita Devi in Bhiwani district in Haryana. According to Wikipedia, he spent his childhood in towns like Hisar & Sonipat (Haryana) and Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh). When he finished school, he went to study at IIT Kharagpur located in West Bengal, presumably by clearing the all India entrance exam. After graduating from IIT Kharagpur, he took up a job at Tata Steel in Jamshedpur (then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand). A few years later, this boy who grew up in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, who got a college education in West Bengal and a job in Jharkhand, became an Income Tax officer in Delhi, having cleared the all India civil service exams.

That boy was Arvind Kejriwal. Today he is the Chief Minister of Delhi. And he wants to make sure that kids who are not from Delhi stay out of Delhi University.


He wants an 80% quota in Delhi University for kids who have done their schooling from Delhi. The stated objective: to make sure that Delhi kids who score a mere 50% in their Board Exams are assured a place in Delhi University.

Such are the ways of politicians.

But why is India’s famously liberal, famously honest and famously vocal intelligentsia silent about a political plan to destroy Delhi University? Do they not care about one of our finest institutions of higher learning?

First of all, let us get the basics right. Delhi University is a Central University. As a Central University, every citizen of India, no matter where they reside, has an equal claim to Delhi University. Asking for a “Delhi quota” in DU simply because the university is located in Delhi would be like asking IIT Delhi or AIIMS to reserve seats for Delhi students because they are based in Delhi too. Or for that matter, like IIT Kharagpur (where Kejriwal studied) having a quota for Bengali students because they are located in West Bengal.

In other words, it would be patently absurd and unfair.

The AAP makes a counter “argument” that is laughable: if other states can reserve seats for their students, why not Delhi? Well, that’s because institutions with names like “Mumbai University” or “Bangalore University” are state government universities, while Delhi University is a Central University. Just like Allahabad University is a Central University and has no quotas for students from Uttar Pradesh. Neither does IIT Mumbai have any quota for students from Maharashtra.

Again, forget the politicians. What happened to our intellectuals who have been so worried in the last five years about the supposed political interference with “institutions”? Will they let the Delhi University community be torn apart by the worst kind of identity politics? Are they willing to sacrifice Delhi University and kickstart similar absurd demands for “reservations for locals” at other central institutions like IITs? These days liberals are aggressively promoting Raj Thackeray. So what is next? A demand for 80% reservation for locals at IIT Mumbai?

So far I have only mentioned the Constitutional/Legal perspective of all Indians having an equal claim on Central Government institutions regardless of where they are situated. But there are many other angles to this. The lifeblood of an institution of higher learning is its ability to attract young minds from the most diverse possible talent pool. Stagnation is decay. If Delhi University were forced to cater to just one city, the campus community would choke, standards would fall and its reputation would be in tatters. The AAP is quite upfront about this, promising that Delhi based students with just 50% in their Board Exams would still make it to DU!

Remember, this does not help any real people, including students from Delhi. Once the reputation of DU collapses, what would you do with a degree from DU anyway? The only folks who might benefit would be AAP politicians, who are counting on people not to realize the fallacy of their promise.

Secondly, think about the social justice angle of this and the hypocrisy of it all. As a thumb rule, it is safe to assume that students in Delhi have vastly more learning opportunities than students in most parts of the country. Now there are people who want the already underprivileged students from Bihar, from Uttar Pradesh, from the North East and the rest of the country to be kicked in the teeth and shut out of Delhi University. All this so that Delhi students with 50% in their Board Exams can get a free pass into DU. Where are our liberals who manage to “intellectualize” even left-wing terrorism in the name of social justice? Can they not see the unfairness of this?

Now compare and contrast this with the “liberal” stance on some other issues. Think about the Assamese who are getting uprooted from large swathes of their home state by the overwhelming onslaught of infiltrators from Bangladesh. The “liberal” condescends on those who express such fears, calls them xenophobic and racist. The liberal wants the North East to make space for Bangladeshi infiltrators and Rohingyas from Myanmar. The “liberal” file PILs in the Supreme Court demanding that the Indian state should divert its welfare spending from hundreds of millions of Indian poor to those from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

And the same liberal has nothing to say if a DU seat is offered to a Delhi student who scores 50% rather than a student from a deprived district in Bihar who has scored 90%.

Now we know AAP may never get a chance to implement its agenda. But the seed has been sowed. The intellectual fabric of Delhi University has been placed permanently under stress. “Where are you from? What is your race? What is your ethnicity?” are the worst questions that you can ask a scholar in a learning environment. It leads nowhere but darkness.  A learning environment comes alive only when we discuss each other’s ideas and not their race or ethnicity.

Shhh….say no more. Because ‘secularism’. Another of those buzzwords like ‘social justice’ or ‘institutional independence’ that the liberal elite uses as per their convenience to justify bringing in a regime that will keep the wine flowing at their dinner parties in Lutyens Delhi.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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