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Online petition against Mumbai university’s removal of Rohinton Mistry’s book from English syllabus under pressure of the right wing Shiv Sena

10 October 2010

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To: Governor of Maharashtra (Chancellor of the University of Mumbai)

Cc:

The Vice Chancellor,
- University of Mumbai,

The Chairman of the University Grants Commission,
Address

Subject: Statement of Opposition Against the Vice-Chancellor’s Decision to Drop Such A Long Journey from the SYBA English Syllabus of Mumbai University

We, the undersigned condemn the undemocratic manner in which Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such A Long Journey has been omitted from the Second Year Bachelor of Arts (SYBA) English Literature syllabus of the University of Mumbai.

We are disturbed and alarmed by the manner in which the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Dr. Rajan Welukar, bowed down to the demands of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena (the student wing of the Shiv Sena) and had the novel dropped from the syllabus overnight, purely on account of the group’s displeasure with “anti Shiv Sena passages”; “derogatory references” to Mumbai’s dabbawalas, the Marathi Manoos and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru; and “extremely obscene and vulgar language in its’ text”.

While we do not deny that the BVS and its’ supporters have every right to be outraged by the contents of the novel, we strongly oppose the means which they have chosen to express their dissent, which includes burning copies of the book and the issuing of ultimatums not only for the VC to omit the text from the syllabus within 24 hours, but also to exclude the professors who included to text in the syllabus from any university work in the future. Furthermore, being keenly aware of the immense bureaucracy involved in the decision-making processes of the University, we question the nature of the administrative process which led to the book being dropped from the syllabus and demand that the details of the said proceedings be made public.

Lastly, in the interest of upholding the democratic principles enshrined within the Indian Constitution, we demand that the novel be reinstated in the syllabus and urge the BVS and its’ supporters to initiate healthy and democratic debate regarding whether it deserves a place in the syllabus or not.

Yours sincerely,

Your name, College/Organisation name, Position/Department/Year, etc.

Sincerely,

click here to sign the online petition

SEE RELATED NEWS REPORTS AS BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Daily News and Analysis, 2 October 2010

Mumbai varsity drops Rohinton Mistry book after Shiv Sena student wing protest

Place: Mumbai | Agency: PTI

The University of Mumbai has dropped the Booker-nominated novel by Rohinton Mistry Such a Long Journey from the BA syllabus following objections by Shiv Sena students’ wing which alleged that it ’poorly represented’ the saffron party.

The university decided to drop the novel, which was part of the Bachelor of Arts (English) second year syllabus since 2007, last week, vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar said today.

The university has sent a circular on the issue to colleges affiliated to it.

Meanwhile, college teachers said despite having the question papers prepared for the second year BA English, colleges had to postpone the exam after receiving the circular.

"This objectionable novel uses extremely obscene and vulgar language in its text and also makes anti-Sena remarks," said Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena chief, Abhijit Panse.

"The vice chancellor understood our point and was very supportive. He immediately convened a meeting with his senior staff and later informed us that the book had been taken out of the curriculum," he said.

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Hindustan Times

Citizens protest dropping book from varsity syllabus

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times

Mumbai, October 11, 2010

The University of Mumbai’s decision to drop Such a Long Journey, the Booker-nominated novel by Rohinton Mistry, after protests from the Bhartiya Vidyarthi Sena has not only led to dissent among the academia, but also the people of the city. “We are disturbed and alarmed by the manner in which the vice-chancellor of the university Rajan Welukar bowed down to he demands of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena and had the novel dropped from the syllabus overnight, purely on account of the group’s displeasure,” stated a letter signed by members of eight citizens’ groups including Citizens’ Initiative for Peace and Revolutionary Cultural Movement.

Balasaheb Thackeray’s grandson Aditya (20) met the VC on the issue at the end of August and the book was dropped from the SYBA syllabus within 24 hours.

The book is set in 1971 and chronicles the story of Gustad Noble, a Byculla-born Parsi, and his personal struggle with what is right and wrong. The novel is about his ambition and betrayal.

The book has been translated in several foreign languages and is rated as one of the best books on the city. From the principal of St Xavier’s College, Father Mascarenhas.to eminent journalist and writer Aroon Tikekar, everyone has expressed their displeasure at

University officials, meanwhile, are planning to meet the V-C about the issue. “This was a knee-jerk reaction. While the sentiments of people should be taken into a consideration, the V-C could have appointed a committee of academics and taken their view. His reaction shows that the university will bow to political pressure and we will discuss the issue with him,” said a faculty member.

Members of the board of studies of literature, which determines the syllabus, said that some things need to be done to avoid communal disharmony.

“If something is looked at without its context it cane come across as derogatory. But this is literature and a work of fiction and it is about context,” said Marie Fernandes, a member of the board of studies.

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