Published: 25th October 2018
My books are part of Columbia University's syllabus, why not DU: Kancha Ilaiah on the issue of his books being removed from DU
The writer said it was imperative for students to study the lives of the oppressed classes and their contribution to the economy of the country
According to a PTI report, the Delhi University's Standing Committee on Academic Matters is considering removing three of Dalit writer-activist Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd's books from the syllabus. The committee claims that the books have controversial content but Ilaiah is sure that the move is part of a larger propaganda by the BJP and RSS.
In his own words, after Dr BR Ambedkar, the only other Dalit writer and philosopher to be widely read and studied is Ilaiah and removing his books from the syllabus could mean the absolute absence of the Dalit voice. Ilaiah said that his books have been part of the syllabus in many prominent universities including JNU and also international ones like Columbia University for decades now.
Prof Hansraj Suman, a member of the Academic Council and Standing Committee said that there had been a discussion about the syllabus of nine Masters courses,"A decision was taken for the removal of Kancha Ilaiah's books from the political science syllabus due to their controversial content." According to the report the professor also objected to the use of the word 'Dalit' in a paper titled "Dalit Bahujan Political Thought" under the political science course. He also added that the word 'Dalit' has been banned at many places and recommended for the usage of 'Scheduled Caste' instead, an idea accepted by the Standing Committee.
The three books to be removed from the syllabus are - 'Why I am not a Hindu', 'God as Political Philosopher: Buddha's Challenge to Brahminism' and 'Post-Hindu India'. The books are studied as a part of the syllabus for streams like Political Science, English Literature, Sociology.
The writer said he only heard of this proposed move when some journalists called him to ask for his opinion," I've heard that some of the committee members have said that the books are not based on any research or facts or referenced data. This only means that nobody has even tried to read my book. Post-Hindu India is my PhD thesis! How can it not be based on researched facts?" he questioned. The books are based on research conducted for almost ten years, the writer said.
This is a deliberate attempt to impose only one kind of ideas on the students, Ilaiah said. "People want to introduce Savarkar's books on nationalism and take away my books. My books have democratic content. It talks about the economy and sociology of the rural world," he said.
"What happens to learning about the lives of the Shudras, the Dalits and the Adivasis? What about learning about their work, their food, culture, ideologies? How will students learn about how and who is producing the food that they eat? There is a science to how food is produced, how bricks are made, how the land is tilled and I've detailed all that in my book. How can they say it doesn't have any facts?" the writer questioned. Earlier, one of Ilaiah's books was also taken to court seeking a ban on it but the Supreme Court ruled that the book was in fact based on facts and stated that the writer had freedom to voice his thoughts.
The University wants to teach the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata but it doesn't want to teach its students about the oppressed castes and their work, Ilaiah argued. "No country can develop without the contending ideas of plurality. We have to give space to all voices and thought," Ilaiah said.
The All India Student Association also released a statement on the issue condemning the recommendation to remove Ilaiah's work. "Any Dalit Assertion which challenges the Hindu establishment is seen as not worthy of being taught to students. University must be a place where opposing ideas are debated, discussed and challenged. This move by the University is another attempt to gag critical voices. We oppose any such decision," the statement read.