Several alumni of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, have written an open letter to the principal opposing the college’s decision to invite Aditya Thackeray for its 150-year celebrations, which commence today, October 4.
They say, “We believe his presence is antithetical to the principles and values espoused by St. Xavier’s College.” They go on to add that having to point this out is “in itself a cause for concern” since Thackeray’s “most notable achievement” in his time there was an act that was “openly condemned by former Principal Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas.”
The authors detail how, in 2010, Thackeray led a (successful) protest against the inclusion of Rohinton Mistry’s Booker Prize-nominated novel Such a Long Journey in the Mumbai University syllabus – because it allegedly portrayed the Shiv Sena in a negative light.
Thackeray, who publicly admitted to not having read the book, still burnt copies of it in protest and threatened unrest to have his demands met. This prompted Mistry, also a Xavier’s alum to speak out against Thackeray, “Twenty years old, in the final year of a B.A. in history, at my own Alma Mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena’s well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature.”
To conclude, the letter also quotes from the principal’s notice at the time. F. Frazer, in 2010, had said, “It is inconceivable that in the 21st century, a political party will not show the maturity to accept criticism and answer it by the evidence of its own actions. Is it not unreasonable, that literature is banned, merely because it dares to critique us? St. Xavier’s College regrets that this book, written by an alumnus, and widely acclaimed in the literary world, has been treated in this manner.”
The letter’s authors and supporters say that giving Thackeray the honour of being one of the notable alumni to launch the celebrations is “an unfortunate reflection of the ethical standing and moral integrity of St. Xavier’s today.” Speaking directly to the principal, the letter adds, “In enabling him, you are sending out a message that literary freedom and critical thought stand no chance against political pressure tactics.”
According to these alumni, “This amnesic attitude towards principles deemed important to our institution is foolish at best and outright dangerous at worst.”
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