“This decision amounts to curbing our freedom of thought and has set a phase that is fast becoming a precedent, an intervention in what we can read, write and think. We have to fight this battle to preserve what is dear to us,” history professor Dr. Sunil Kumar told a gathering of professors and students outside the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor's office on Monday. The protesters were staging a dharna demanding re-introduction of scholar-poet A.K. Ramanujan's celebrated essay on the Ramayana.
The controversial decision of the Academic Council to scrap the essay on the grounds that it hurt the religious sentiments of a certain section of society had sparked off a debate among the academic community with many feeling that the decision signified the sacrifice of academic integrity to extremist forces.
“Whether you like it or not, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, you cannot change the fact that there are different versions of the Ramayana. This essay by Ramanujan is an exceptional piece of reasoning, but our mathematical professor, the V-C decided to scrap this text. This decision is anti-academic, anti-intellectual and anti-democratic,” said Prof. Mukul Mangalik, history professor at Ramjas College. “Even if the essay was an unexceptional piece, we would still be here…as this decision is clearly rooted in paying respect to the politics of hurt religious sentiments.”
Earlier, a protest march, marked by heavy police presence, began from the Arts faculty building around 12 p.m. and went through colleges like Ramjas, Kirori Mal, St. Stephen's and Hindu College before winding up at the Vice-Chancellor's office at 2 p.m. and had teachers, both young and old, shouting slogans like “Inqalab zindabad” and “V-C Dinesh Singh hosh meh aao.”
“This process of hegemonisation has been going on for such a long time in society and it has finally caught up with the academia, it was inevitable,” mused Ms. Triptha Vahi, former professor of history at Ramjas College.
The protesting students also had similar views, although they expressed themselves differently. “People should not manipulate laws according to their whims and fancies,” said Tripthi of St. Stephen's College.