The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli city on Wednesday decided to withdraw a book authored by Arundhati Roy from its syllabus following a complaint from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, reported The Hindu. The author said she was “not in least bit shocked or surprised by the decision”.
Roy’s Walking With The Comrades, a book based on her visit to Maoist camps, was part of the university’s syllabus from 2017.
“A committee comprising academic deans and board of studies members had considered the complaint and decided to withdraw the book as it may be inappropriate to teach a controversial book for students,” Vice Chancellor K Pitchumani told The Indian Express. “We have replaced it with M Krishnan’s My Native Land: Essays on Nature.”
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Dakshin Tamil Nadu Joint Secretary C Vignesh filed a complaint with the university authorities accusing the book of “openly supporting the killing fields and riots by the anti-national Maoists”, according to The Hindu. He also threatened to launch protests and bring the matter to the central government’s notice if there was a delay in the decision.
“It is highly regrettable that this book has been in the syllabus for the past three years,” the ABVP wrote in the complaint letter, according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece Organiser. “All these years Maoists thoughts and ideologies have been taught to the young students.”
Roy, meanwhile, said in a statement that it was her duty to write the book but not fight for its place in a university’s curriculum. The author added that she had no idea that her book was a part of the curriculum, but was happy that it had been taught for several years. She also said that she was neither surprised nor shocked by the decision.
“When I heard of the Manomaniam Sundaranar University’s decision to remove my book Walking With the Comrades from its curriculum following threats and pressure from the ABVP— oddly enough I was more happy than sad because I had no idea that it was in the curriculum in the first place. I am glad it has been taught for several years. I am not in the least bit shocked or surprised that it has been removed from the syllabus now. It was my duty as a writer to write it. It is not my duty to fight for its place on a university curriculum. That is for others to do or not do. Either way it has been widely read and as we know bans and purges do not prevent writers from being read. This narrow, shallow, insecure attitude towards literature displayed by our current regime is not just detrimental to its critics. It is detrimental to millions of its own supporters. It will limit and stunt our collective intellectual capacity as a society and a country that is striving for a place of respect and dignity in the world.”— Arundhati Roy
On Thursday, SG Suryah, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu, claimed that the withdrawal was a “big win” for the RSS-affiliated student body.
Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi criticised the university’s move. “Governance and politics deciding what art and what literature students should study will destroy the diversity of a society,” she tweeted.