Shabana Azmi, Arundhati Roy among 1,150 who want 2 Dalit authors, Mahasweta Devi back in DU English syllabus
The university has been facing protests over the deletion of Bama and Sukhirtharani, as well as Devi, from the fifth semester English syllabus.
A total of 1,150 signatories, including renowned authors, actors and academicians, have petitioned the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor as well as the President of India to reinstate the three deleted women authors from the university’s English syllabus.
The signatories include authors Arundhati Roy, Vikram Chandra and Perumal Murugan; actors Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore and Nandita Das; and scholars Romila Thapar, Ramachandra Guha and Jayati Ghosh.
DU has been facing protests over the deletion of two Dalit authors, Bama and Sukhirtharani, as well as renowned author Mahasweta Devi from the fifth semester English syllabus.
The petition has also been signed Dalit organisations such as All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, Bangla Dalit Sahitya Sanstha and National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights.
“The deleted texts are seminally important as they help realise the systemic oppressions of the Dalit and Adivasi communities that was prevalent, especially in gendered terms, and provide a better appreciation of our contemporary ethos and polity. Is this not something that the young men and women of independent India need to know and engage with? How else will a better and equal world be shaped? Or are we to relegate the protesting woman and the Adivasi to the peripheries of the syllabus of Delhi University 2021? What are we afraid of?” the signatories said in the statement.
“Decades after 1947, Indian literatures in translation and in English were allowed entry into the colonised precinct of English syllabus of Delhi University. Is the process to be halted in terms of caste, class and gender contours of authors and the worlds that they bring alive? We urge the University to revisit its decision,” they added.
The petition was floated by four Associate Professors of English from DU’s Miranda House — Deepika Tandon, Saswati Sengupta, Shampa Roy and Sharmila Purkayastha, and then circulated for wider reach.
In a statement Monday, they said, “The excision is a rare example of political disregard, omission and marginalisation; it reveals the savarna patriarchal ‘oversight’ politics which we strongly criticise.”
DU Registrar Vikas Gupta had earlier responded to the criticism saying the syllabus was “inclusive” but added that “the university subscribes to the idea that the literary content forming part of the text in a language course of study should contain materials which do not hurt the sentiments of any individual…”
The Right-wing teachers’ group NDTF has said there was an “attempt to denigrate and demonise Hinduism and our ancient civilisation, to perpetuate animosity between social castes, to encourage militant Maoism and Maxalism amongst tribals, etc.”
Responding to these statements, the four English teachers said there was “a pattern to the deliberate map of misreading underlying these excisions”.
“Both Bama and Sukirtharani are Tamil Dalit authors. Is it not important to teach and know, in a central university located in Delhi, the regional diversity of contemporary India? How else will an inclusive, better and equal world be shaped?” they said.