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Suggested readings in Delhi University’s history syllabus trigger row

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 07, 2018 04:31 PM IST

Even in the past, a few books and essays were dropped from the reading lists of the university’s history and the sociology departments after objections from a section of academic council.

Last week, a section of Delhi University’s standing committee for academic affairs recommended that two books, which they alleged glorified “naxalism” and “legitimised religious conversions” be dropped from the reading list of MA (History).

Faculty members believe some reading material is “not suitable” for students. (Khyati Mehta / HT File)
Faculty members believe some reading material is “not suitable” for students. (Khyati Mehta / HT File)

This is not the first time that such a demand was made. Earlier too, some books and essays were dropped from the reading lists of the university’s history and the sociology departments after a section of academic council (AC) members objected to their content.

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On August 28, some members of the committee asked for removal of ‘Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar’, by sociologist Nandini Sundar and ‘Against Ecological Romanticism: Verrier Elwin and the Making of an Anti-modern Tribal Identity’ by Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Archana Prasad. They said it was not “suitable for the students”. The matter will now be discussed in the academic council meeting to be held in the last week of this month.

According to academics, in 2008, the university witnessed spate of protests when members of the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bhartiya Vidharythi Parishad (ABVP) opposed the inclusion of a book ‘Cultural History of Ancient India’ in History syllabus. “They alleged that the book was edited and compiled by historian Upinder Singh. However, she had only written the introduction of that book,” said Sushil Kumar, the head of the History department at DU.

Later, in 2012, poet and scholar AK Ramanujan’s popular essay, ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’, was removed from the BA History curriculum after a section of teachers opposed it for “hurting their religious sentiments”. “Two years before that, Periyar’s book ‘Sachhi Ramayan’ was removed from History syllabus of Delhi University after some academic council members protested against it,” said Hansraj Suman, member of both the AC and the University’s standing committee on academic affairs.

Last year, some members of Right-inclined teachers’ group, National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), had opposed the induction of another of Sundar’s book, ‘The Burning Forest: India’s war in Bastar’, in the Sociology syllabus. The book was later removed from the reading list prescribed for the subject by the department. “It is indeed an ideological opposition. All these books or text which have been dropped off the syllabus are the works of Left-leaning teachers. However, those who have been opposing them are Right-inclined,” said another AC member, who did not wish to be named.

Sundar, however, said those opposing are not even aware of the content of the books. “Even Ramanujan’s essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ is a wonderful academic work. I don’t’ know how anyone can term it anti-Hindu. These people just don’t support good scholars,” she said.

Archana Prasad could not be reached for her comments.

A section of teachers have also written to the vice chancellor Yogesh Tyagi, requesting him to look into the matter and restore the “culture of academic debate” in the university.

Geeta Bhatt, one of the committee members who have objected to the books, said, “The books are not being opposed because of ideological differences. The content of these books glorify Naxalism and it is not suitable for students. We will continue opposing it till they are dropped.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Fareeha Iftikhar is a Special Correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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