DU essay debate: Teachers, academics protest

New Delhi: Teachers and students of different colleges of Delhi University today took to the streets condemning the varsity`s decision to remove A K Ramanujan`s essay on Ramayana, with some dubbing it a "fascist" move while pro-BJP outfit labelling it as an "attack" on academic freedom.

The group comprising representatives from pro-Left organisations, academics of history and other subjects and students took out a protest march starting from the Arts Faculty and touching colleges like Kirorimal, Hindu and St Stephens before concluding at the office of the Vice Chancellor to whom a memorandum was submitted.

Carrying placards that read `Resist Saffronisation of Higher Education` and `Mr VC Stop Implementing the Dictates of the Right Wing Goons`, the protesters shouted slogans against what they called an "attack" on history.

"This is a very scary and an extremely frightening moment for us. This has set in place a precedent that is fearsome," said History Prof Sunil Kumar on the University Academic Council`s recent decision to remove the essay `Three Hundred Ramayanas` from History syllabus.

At the protest march, the participating teachers also alleged the opinion of the teachers of the history department was also overruled by the Academic Council while taking its decision.

"This decision is an act of wanton philistinism and is anti-academic. The decision appears to have been informed by a prejudice against teachers particularly non-Hindu college teachers… Politics of hurt sentiments cannot be allowed to pair down academic freedoms," said Mukul Mangalik who teaches History at Ramjas college.

An online signature campaign has also been started, with a protest note addressed to the Vice Chancellor, already signed by nearly 1400 people, including the likes of Prof Bipin Chandra, Prof Romila Thapar, Prof Mridula Mukherjee and Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock, among others.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, meanwhile, described the protest as "ridiculous", charging it has come from Left-wing activists and "not from genuine scholars and students".

ABVP State Secretary Rohit Chahal welcomed the AC`s decision to remove the essay but said they would be on guard to make sure the text that replaces it in future too does not hurt any section.

"We do not want any text that hurts anybody to be taught in the curriculum. The question is whether the same scholars, who are agitating today, will recommend a similar controversial that hurts any other community, say for example a text by Salman Rushdie," he said.