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India: Book titles dropped from reading list, Delhi University surrenders to saffron pressure | Press Statement by Democratic Teachers Front

31 August 2018

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Democratic Teachers’ Front

Press Statement, 31.08.2018

If the news item appearing in Times of India on 30.08.2018 that the Standing Committee on Academic Affairs has suggested to the History department that Nandini Sundar’s Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar, 1854-2006 and Archana Prasad’s Against Ecological Romanticism: Verrier Elwin and the Making of an Anti-modern Tribal Identity should be removed from the reading list as the books are “unfit for students in DU” is true, it is a sad and shameful day for the Delhi University’s academic reputation.

It is reported that the grounds for such a decision was that Nandini Sundar’s book “justified the acts of the Naxals by saying that they are involved in these activities as they are unemployed” and that Archana Prasad “legitimised conversion by writing that “conversion of tribals is inconsequential to what the tribals face””.

It is shocking that the academic committee could find an argument that economic conditions may drive people to certain political actions is a justification / glorification. Equally shocking is the conclusion that an argument, observation or documentation that conversion of tribals is inconsequential to problems that the tribals face justifies conversion! If anything, it questions conversions, re-conversions, re-re-conversions by all persuasions as not addressing the problems faced by tribals.

Are such obvious unacademic conclusions based on misreading or inability to understand or is it a case of surrendering academic freedom and succumbing to unreason.

That the unfounded criticism of the books is initiated by members close to the political persuasion justifying ghar wapasi type conversion is not incidental. That the timing coincides with the police targeting of intellectuals, lawyers, dalit activists and activists for tribal rights is not immaterial. The parallel between these arguments and the questions asked by the police to one Professor during the infamous raids of 28.08.2018 as to why does he have Ambedkar & Phule instead of gods and goddesses and why does he want to be an intellectual instead of being content with his salary as a Professor is striking.

This is an attempt to browbeat academic institutions to stop exploring ideas, to stop raising questions and to stop reading and thinking, and to believe what they are told to be true by the ruling dispensation.

The DTF demands a review of the Standing Committee decision and a full debate in the AC based on the views of the syllabus committees and on academic argument and logic.

Shaswati Mazumdar, President
Abha Dev Habib, Secretary