Restore Mahasweta Devi's 'Draupadi', other dropped works: DU English teachers

115 DU English teachers demanded reinstating of Mahasweta Devi's "Draupadi", works of women Dalit authors in DU English syllabus for semester 5.

Restore Mahasweta Devi's 'Draupadi', other dropped works: DU English teachers DU (Source: Official Website)
Press Trust of India | Sep 4, 2021 - 5:28 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: A section of English teachers of Delhi University has accused a varsity panel of making a mockery of the "democratic and the due process" in drafting the subject's syllabus and demanded reinstating of dropped works, including Mahasweta Devi's celebrated short story "Draupadi".

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In a statement issued on Friday, about 115 English teachers from across DU colleges slammed the dropping of works of Devi, Bama, and Sukirtharani by the Oversight Committee during redrafting the English syllabus for semester 5. According to the teachers, the "entire process was flagrantly violated and bypassed by the Oversight Committee".

"It (the Oversight Committee) single-handedly seeks to destroy a syllabus that has been put together after years of careful discussion and debate, where democratically elected committees have chosen democratically diverse texts that seek to represent all sections of society," they said in the statement. "We demand the reinstatement of works by Mahasweta Devi, Bama, and Sukirtharani in the Core Women’s Writing paper of semester V," they added.

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The varsity's Academic Council last month dropped Devi, and two Dalit authors from BA (Hons) English course, while approving changes in its syllabus on recommendations of the Oversight Committee. "The voices that have been throttled are those of Dalit and non-Dalit women writers writing about Dalit/tribal women. "What else could be less inclusive than excluding these powerful women narratives, Mahasweta Devi's 'Draupadi', Bama's Sangati (chapters 2-4) and Sukirtharani's two poems 'Debt' and 'My Body', that congeal caste and gender oppression with that of patriarchal state violence from the syllabus," they asked.

DU English syllabus

Earlier while redrafting the syllabus, the DU had claimed it strives to bring out the "inclusive nature of the syllabus" through a "careful perusal". The teachers also alleged that the English department head was coerced into consenting on the refurbished syllabus. They said that the OC recommendation that "Draupadi" should be deleted came on July 19 -- less than 24 hours before classes were scheduled to begin. The English department wrote twice to the OC, they claimed, presenting all the "academic and pedagogic reasons" in favour of keeping the story, but the committee rejected their argument.

The OC "held the Department of English to ransom by not notifying its BA (Hons) English Semester V syllabus on the website until the 1st of September 2021 (44th day of the Vth semester, a week after the registrar's press release)," they alleged. Recounting the sequence of events, the teachers said that the English department HOD received the notice from the assistant registrar to drop "Draupadi" by Devi on August 9. But when department dropped the story and suggested to replace it with "Hunt", a work by the same author, the OC in a letter on August 11, vetoed the move citing "ideological" differences, and offered to choose from six alternatives.

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Professor Raj Kumar, HOD of English department at the university, told PTI that he approved the course "only in the interest of teachers and students since it was being held for months". According to Kumar, the English department had put in "3000 hours of work" on the syllabus between 2017 and 2019. "Two international professors and professors from other central universities had also approved the syllabus," he said.

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