Delhi University’s English Department has decided to do away with parts of its undergraduate syllabus that refer to the 2002 Gujarat riots and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. This step was taken to “not hurt anyone’s sentiments,” according to the department head. Two papers related to caste and the queer community were also modified and made optional.
The decision comes one day after the university’s Academic Council sent back syllabi to the English department to take a final call because of the objections raised by the RSS-backed National Democratic Teacher’s Front (NDFT). Objections were also raised against sections of the History department’s syllabus, as well as the syllabi of Political Science and Sociology.
On July 16, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP, also protested against the alleged “objectionable” and “anti-RSS” material in these syllabi at the vice chancellor’s lodge.
One of the stories under question is Maniben alias Bibijan, which which was added to the English syllabus and is based on the 2002 riots in Gujarat. According to NDFT members, it has shown characters from the Bajrang Dal and RSS in “bad light” and as “murderers”.
NDTF and Academic Council member, Rasal Singh, had also objected to the ‘Literature and Caste’ and ‘Interrogating Queerness’. “The course on interrogating queerness showed our gods as homosexuals and made references to texts about Indian knowledge traditions, such as Bhagwat Purana and Skanda Purana,” Singh told News18.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Head of English Department, Raj Kumar, said, “We don’t want to hurt sentiments… so we are removing a story called ‘Maniben alias Bibijaan’, and from the English journalism course, we are also removing mention of Muzaffarnagar riots. Besides this, we are revising a few other things.”
When asked why the material was being dropped despite the department being the final authority on the matter, he said, “Academic issues are being made political, we don’t want to unnecessarily bring any controversy and prolong this.”
According to The Indian Express, Sunil Kumar, the Head of History Department also said that they may “consider changes” suggested for their syllabus by the NDFT. Whereas, the Head of Sociology Department, Roma Chatterji and Head of Political Science Department, Veena Kukreja did not respond when contacted about the same.
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