‘RSS’ links, ‘friends’ in high places: The trouble with IIMC’s recent recruitment of professors

Complainants claim one appointee is ‘close’ to IIMC’s director-general, while another allegedly has ties to the RSS.

ByBasant Kumar
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‘RSS’ links, ‘friends’ in high places: The trouble with IIMC’s recent recruitment of professors
Left to right: Appointees Meeta Ujjain, Pawan Koundal, and Rakesh Kumar Upadhyay.|Kartik Kakar
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In January last year, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication announced the recruitment of six associate professors and two assistant professors.

Of the six associate posts, two were reserved for OBCs, one for Dalits, and one for economically weaker sections; while the other two posts were unreserved. There was no reservation for the recruitment of the assistant professor posts.

Appointments to all eight posts were completed by February-March this year.

For the associate professor posts, IIMC appointed Rachna Sharma and Rakesh Kumar Upadhyay in the unreserved category; Dilip Kumar and Rajesh Kumar Kushwaha in the OBC category; Pawan Kaundal in the SC category; and Meeta Ujjain from EWS.

The two assistant professors appointed are Narendra Pandurang and Vineet Kumar Jha Utpal.

Out of the eight appointees, all have started work except Pandurang.

But the appointments are now mired in controversy.

A complainant told Newslaundry they have approached the ministry of information and broadcasting with complaints, as IIMC is funded through the ministry. Another complainant said they had approached the Delhi High Court complaining of discrepancies in the appointment process.

Complainants claim the recruitment process, and the final appointments, allegedly “favoured” candidates associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, or candidates who are “former associates” of IIMC’s director-general, Sanjay Dwivedi.

Here’s what we found.

Case one

On October 17, 2019, home minister Amit Shah was in Varanasi, attending a two-day seminar at Banaras Hindu University.

In a video of the event, the speaker introducing Shah was clearly excited.

“We know in the history of independence, we had a sardar. But the one who is present in our midst today is going to be the most asardar [effective[ home minister of India in the world,” he gushed. “Hearing whose names, the happiness of those who love Ma Bharati increases. And seeing whose appearance, listening to whose words in Parliament – the heart of the country’s enemies is shaken.”

This ballad to Shah’s glory continued for a good 20 minutes. Referring to the televised announcement in the Lok Sabha on the abrogation of Article 370, he said, “This is the sound that came out of Skandagupta’s tone when the throne of Pataliputra was trembling. When I saw the same tone on television, it came out of the mouth [of] Amit Shah Vikramaditya.”

Who was this enthusiastic speaker, you might ask?

This was Rakesh Kumar Upadhyay, chair professor at the Bharat Adhyayan Kendra, BHU – and a newly appointed associate professor at IIMC, recruited to teach political reporting. He also attended prime minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2019.

Here’s a sample of some of his tweets.

Credits: Admin

Upadhyay’s Facebook page indicates he’s been a journalist at channels like Aaj Tak, Zee News and News24; you can find samples of his work here and here.

More interestingly, he is also associated with the editorial team of Panchjanya, the RSS’s mouthpiece. And this isn’t in the past – he still writes for the magazine.

The December-January 2022 issue, for instance, was an Uttar Pradesh special, released just before the state assembly election. It was effusive in its praise of chief minister Adityanath, and the issue’s honorary editor was Upadhyay himself.

A piece by Upadhyay also featured in the magazine, describing how when Adityanath took oath in 2017, “the ancient Kashi was illuminated with a new light”.

Upadhyay left active journalism for the stint at BHU’s Bharat Adhyayan Kendra, which had been set up by then vice-chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi to research Indian culture and history.

Sources claim it was Tripathi who brought Upadhyay to BHU. A teacher told Newslaundry Upadhyay held the post for five years, allegedly earning a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month.

“His five-year term ended in November last year,” alleged a source at the Bharat Adhyayan Kendra. “His file was sent for an extension...He still comes occasionally to take classes in Hindu studies.”

The recruitment criteria for associate professors at IIMC is very clear: “a minimum of eight years of experience of teaching and/or research in an academic/research position”.

But Upadhyay has only five.

How then was Upadhyay appointed to teach political reporting at IIMC – a subject far removed from Hindu studies?

A questionnaire sent to IIMC director-general Sanjay Dwivedi did not elicit a response.

Upadhyay himself told Newslaundry: “I fulfil the qualifications that IIMC asked for. I have nothing else to say about this.”

After Upadhyay joined IIMC, there was yet another issue – he purportedly taught some classes in Hindi, and students who did not know Hindi protested. Upadhyay’s classes for English students were then stopped.

“We also have students from Kerala and other states, those who do not understand Hindi,” an IIMC student said, on the condition of anonymity. “They were the people who opposed it.”

The student added, “But I liked his class. He teaches in a practical way.”

Another student said, “Often he starts praising the current government. Sometimes, he is seen trying to strike a balance.”

Case two

The next appointment controversy revolves around Meeta Ujjain, hired under the EWS quota as an associate professor.

But Ujjain is from the general category.

An IIMC document claims, seen below, says since there is "no candidate" under the EWS category, "the Selection Committee recommended that 1st Wait Listed candidate in General Category may be selected against this vacancy..."

Ujjain was formerly an assistant professor in the department of advertising and PR at the Noida campus of Bhopal’s Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication – a post she held from 2005 onward. When the Noida campus closed in 2020, she returned to the main campus in Bhopal.

Someone else at IIMC has ties to the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication. IIMC’s director-general, Sanjay Dwivedi, was the head of its mass communication department for 10 years until 2020, when he was appointed vice-chancellor of the university.

Soon after, on July 1, 2020, Dwivedi was appointed as director-general of IIMC.

A teacher at Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University alleged that Ujjain and Dwivedi were “close”. “The two have worked together for a long time,” they said. “Every man benefits his people.”

But were there really no suitable candidates applying to IIMC under the EWS quota?

There’s a loophole that explains this.

IIMC specifies pay criteria for candidates as per a pay matrix designated for central government employees.

Now, the central government’s definition of someone who qualifies under the EWS quota is an annual family income of Rs 8,00,000, and who does not belong to an SC, ST or OBC category.

There lies the rub – a candidate who qualifies for this pay level and who has eight years of experience is unlikely to qualify as an EWS candidate.

“EWS quota becomes meaningless in the post of associate professor,” said Delhi University professor Apoorvanand. “The income ceiling in EWS ends in the salary of assistant professor only...It’s just a joke.”

Additionally, if an EWS quota post is not filled due to a lack of suitable candidates, “vacancies for that particular recruitment shall not be carried forward to the next recruitment year as backlog”, according to a 2019 document issued by the ministry of personnel.

But then can an unreserved candidate from a waiting list – like Ujjain – be appointed instead?

There’s no clear guideline on this; Newslaundry spoke to several professors and officials, all of whom had different opinions.

Case three

Newslaundry has learned that two official complaints have been filed over IIMC’s appointments.

The first complainant was not willing to speak on record for this story. The second complainant is Shailendra Singh, a Bhopal resident.

Singh filed a complaint with the I&B ministry against Pawan Kaundal’s appointment as associate professor under the SC quota. Kaundal has been appointed to the publications department and will head the department of official languages.

In a letter to the I&B ministry, Singh wrote, “I was not invited for the interview by the Scrutiny Committee for the post of associate professor on the grounds that I did not have a regular pay scale (Level 10). But another candidate Dr Pawan Kaundal was invited for interview even though he was not eligible for the regular pay scale (Level 10) and was also given appointment.”

A source told Newslaundry Kaundal had been the assistant editor of the IIMC magazine before his appointment as associate professor. He had allegedly also taught some classes as a guest faculty member – but it’s unclear as to whether he has the required eight years of experience.

This was corroborated by another source, who said Kaundal assumed the post of assistant editor in 2011.

“The IIMC journal is not academic research,” the source pointed out. “...Being an assistant editor with a research-based journal cannot be considered academic research experience. I don’t understand why he was called for an interview.” They also alleged Kaundal was not at a pay level of 10 when he was appointed associate professor.

Pawan Kaundal told Newslaundry he was unaware of the allegations being made against him.

Sanjay Dwivedi, the director-general of IIMC, responded to Newslaundry’s questionnaire saying: “All the selections have been done as per rules. Scrutiny committee and selection committee have made appointments after following all the rules.”

This report was first published in Newslaundry Hindi.

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