A group of 348 eminent citizens have written to the Delhi University asking the authorities to reinstate the works of Tamil Dalit writers Bama Faustina Soosairaj and Sukirtharani and Bengali author Mahasweta Devi to its syllabus.
The letter has been sent on behalf of the Dalit Intellectual Collective to the vice-chancellor of the Delhi University.
Last month, the university had dropped three texts – Devi’s short story ‘Draupadi’, Sukirtharini’s My Body and Soosairaj’s Sangati – from its BA (Honours) English course. The decision drew criticism, including from 15 members of the university’s Academic Council.
The Council members had submitted a dissent note against the move, alleging “maximum vandalism” in the curriculum.
The letter from the Dalit Intellectual Collective has been signed by Dalit activists, academicians, scholars, writers, filmmakers, artists and students from India and abroad.
The signatories also demanded that the Delhi University should issue an apology to the writers for removing their works from the syllabus.
“These literary texts speak of the resistance of Adivasi women against state oppression, the discriminatory travails of Dalit women in caste-infected Indian villages, and the searing injustice of manual scavenging,” the letter asserted.
The statement also questioned the rationale behind the changes in the syllabus, noting that the Delhi University had said that the works of the three writers “hurt sentiments”.
“Whose sentiments were hurt by these texts?” the letter questioned. “Surely not the sentiments of those whose oppression was portrayed here! Must the sentiments of the privileged always shape academic programs?”
The signatories said that writings of Devi, Bama and Sukirtharani belong to the “rich tradition of protest literature” and “imagine an inclusive and better society for everyone”.