Ramayana Essay: Protest, Signature Campaign in DU
Groups of teachers and students will come together tomorrow to voice their displeasure and protest the removal of scholar A K Ramanujan’s essay on Ramayana from the history syllabus even as an online signature campaign against the decision gathers steam.
The group of mostly Left-bent organisations, with participating teachers and students from Delhi University and outside, will hold a protest march starting from the Vivekananda Statue and culminate at the Vice Chancellor’s office to resist what they call an attack on history by right wing groups.
The issue was first raised way back in 2008 when a group of ABVP members stormed the history department to protest the inclusion of Three Hundred Ramayana’s in the curriculum.
It came to life again earlier this month when the University Academic Council decided to do away with the essay over-ruling the history department council’s recommendation in favour of its continuation.
An online signature campaign too began, with a protest note addressed to the Vice Chancellor, already signed by over 960 people as on Sunday. Notable among the names who have singed the online petition are Prof Bipin Chandra, Prof Romila Thapar and Prof Mridula Mukherjee.
“To delete it (the essay) from the syllabus is an act that is deeply disturbing, an instance of thought policing. Such a measure will only encourage sectarian groups to try and prevent intellectuals from expressing their ideas freely,” reads the petition.
The essay, which offers a number of tellings of the epic story of Lord Rama, including the Jain, Buddhist and Kannada narratives, had not gone down well with sections of the right wing, some of whom called it “blasphemous”.
The groups that will join tomorrow’s protest include the All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO), All India Students Federation (AISF), All India Students Association (AISA), Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) among others.
“Should we allow the rightist forces to abolish the subject of history itself by replacing historical inquiry with assertions of faith?” asks a leaflet circulated by the agitating groups.
The Department Council of History faculty had met last week to discuss the issue and to condemn the decision taken by the university’s top academic body.
Oct 23, 2011
The decision in the Academic Council too had been made in a stormy meeting and at least nine members had raised strong dissent over the issue.
“Hundreds of Ramayana stories popular in India and elsewhere in Asia are part of our shared and diverse heritage … Should we bury those Ramayanas that are unacceptable to the self appointed custodians of Hindu morality,” asks the statement.