The Delhi University on Thursday defended its decision to drop the works of Tamil Dalit writers Bama Faustina Soosairaj and Sukirtharani, and Bengali author Mahasweta Devi from an undergraduate course and said that the syllabus was approved through a democratic process.
It added: “The university subscribes to the idea that the literary content forming part of the text in a language course of study should contain materials that do not hurt the sentiments of any individual and is inclusive to portray the true picture of our society, both past and present.”
The institution was criticised for removing three texts – Devi’s short story ‘Draupadi’, Sukirtharini’s ‘My Body’ and Soosairaj’s ‘Sangati’ – from its BA (Honours) English course. On Wednesday, 15 members of the university’s Academic Council had opposed the move, describing it as “maximum vandalism” in the curriculum.
“The Oversight Committee has always shown a prejudice against the representation of Dalits, tribals, women, and sexual minorities as evident in its concerted efforts to remove all such voices from the syllabus,” the members had said.
But despite the criticism, the university on Thursday claimed that its syllabus was inclusive. The institution said its curriculum featured “pioneering works of scholars of both national and international fame without consideration of their colour, caste or creed”.
Unidentified officials from the university had told The Print on Wednesday that the three texts were removed from the course because they allegedly showed the Indian Army in a bad light and had gruesome sexual content.
Abha Dev Habib, the treasurer of DU teachers’ association, said the university’s administration was complicit in “the unethical and unacademic chopping of authors” from the syllabus, The Indian Express reported.
She added: “The university has completely abdicated its responsibility towards upholding academic freedom and critical rigour in higher education in the name of hurt sentiments.”
Habib said it was shameful that senior academicians had become instruments for the imposition of censorship on courses, as per orders from the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.