By Janhavi Sharma:
The University of Delhi is not only a melting pot for people from different parts of the country that promotes a composite and diverse culture but is the harbinger of exceptional quality academics.
With a number of subjects, scholars and opinions being studied at the university, there is an atmosphere of debate, discussion and critiquing that is emphasised.
Recently, there was an attack on the quality and kind of academic study which was being promoted within the Political Science syllabus. There was a demand to curb the study of certain books and articles by a Dalit activist, Kancha Ilaiah.
The Standing Committee on Academic Matters of the University of Delhi recently proposed to curb the study of three books by Dalit activist Kancha Ilaiah. These are ‘Why I Am Not A Hindu’, ‘Buffalo Nationalism’ and ‘Post-Hindu India’. The basis for the proposal was that these texts were ‘too radical’ and ‘threatened the existence of Hinduism’.
This decision, however, is yet to be approved by the Academic Council. In addition to this, the committee has also put forward the demand that the term ‘Dalit’ should be abandoned within the university’s academic discourse.
“We decided to remove these books because they are insulting to Hinduism. We felt that it would not be appropriate for students to read it,” said committee member Hansraj Suman.
Kancha Ilaiah expressed great disdain and disbelief towards this recommended move and was very vocal about his opinions and feelings towards it. He ceased to filter his words.
“My books have been used as reference books in many countries, including Columbia University and DU, for years. They are just a continuation of Ambedkar’s work… The BJP is censoring academic scholarship,” Ilaiah told The Indian Express.
“Why is it that they’re wanting to ban now? Because they don’t want production communities such as Shudra, Dalit-Adivasis to be empowered. This is a plan to not allow plural ideas,” he said.
On the ‘Dalit’ nomenclature ban issue, this is what Kancha had to say, “RSS is afraid of my writings as the Shudra and OBC cadre are reading and are influenced by them.”
First and foremost, not only does this proposed ban filter essential academic scholarship, but it also undermines the importance of pluralism within the academic discourse.
To study and comprehend disciplines of social science, the study of oppression, social stratification and religion are imperative. By removing scholarly inputs that criticise organised religion and bring forth an alternative opinion, the quality of education that is being imparted is being compromised.
The proposal to ban the term ‘Dalit’ from educational modules, is also irrational. As the term ‘Dalit’ essentially means the assertion of individual identity. Historically, Dalits have always been placed outside the Brahmanical social order and have attempted to assert their own identity after being subjected to years of social oppression.
For the Dalit community itself, the term signifies power and has cultural and political connotations. It would be highly apolitical to propel this move to eradicate a term that is a marker of someone’s identity.
A version of this post was first published here.