Published: 19th July 2019
We have the argument, they have the might: DU teachers forced to revise chapters on Godhra, caste, gender
The English, Political Science and History departments have revised their syllabus after the Academic Council meeting
Texts that referred to Godhra riots of 2002, gender fluidity, political issues and mob lynching have been dropped and a paper on literature and caste made optional from the revised English undergraduate syllabus at the Delhi University that the department has submitted for review. An Executive Committee will decide the fate of the syllabus on July 20. The parts of the syllabus that had irked the National Democratic Teachers' Front (NDTF) members have been removed. The teachers also alleged that this was more of a command that the administration had given them than a request to reconsider.
"We were given the list and told that we should implement what has been asked of us. We had all the arguments in favour of the syllabus that we had proposed. But they had the might. And in today's India, the might is always right," said Saikat Ghosh, an Assistant Professor of the department and an Academic Council member who was crucial in the process of drafting the new syllabus. "We have submitted the revisions but we are very unhappy with this. Two years of our hard work has almost gone down the drain. We wanted to bring our syllabus up to global standards. We have academic arguments but those are not being heard. The people who had a problem with the syllabus seem to be more powerful than the university," added Saikat.
The English department had to drop the most controversial and debated short story "Maniben alias Bibijaan" by Shilpa Paralkar that spoke about a Hindu woman's connection with a Muslim man in the backdrop of the Godhra riots of 2002 and hinted that a character — a member of the Bajrang Dal — was associated with looting and burning an old Muslim man alive with his granddaughter. "We also had to drop an essay by Mukul Kesavan on a politically empowering government, Neha Dixit's award-winning reportage on mob-lynching. We had to get rid of all reference to Indian deities when it came to the section of the syllabus on Interrogating queerness — we are only trying to make the students engage with gender beyond the binary and we have had that in Indic civilisation since ancient times. The Ardha-Nariswar avatar of Shiv is the best example of gender fluidity," said Saikat. "But they did not accept the argument and alleged that Shiva is being held up as the symbol for the LGBTQ community. I think why they are actually riled up is because they do not have many RSS minded people in the English departments to have adequate representation to influence the syllabus," he added.
It was not just the English syllabus that the Academic Council had sent back for review — the History department let go of the history of the Left movement in India, the Political Science department scrapped the writings of Dr Nandini Sundar with references to the agrarian crisis and Maoists which has come up a second time after it was recommended to be dropped last year.
The Students' Federation of India, in a statement, said that the right-wing communal forces working amongst the teacher and student community of the University of Delhi are on a fit of rage over the progressive content taught in some UG courses in the University, "The RSS, through their frontal organisations like the ABVP and the NDTF, have been attempting to tamper with the education curriculums. The hue and cry created over Ramanujan’s 300 Ramayanas and attempts by Gujarat government to re-write the history of the Indian Independence movement based on lies propagated by the Sangh are a few examples. What has changed, however, since the Modi government has assumed power in the centre is that such attempts to destroy curriculum promoting critical ability and scientific temper and replacing it with RSS propaganda have got institutional backing."