“Reinstate dropped texts,” English professors counter Delhi University’s stand on syllabus

In the statement, the professors said the syllabus of English honours had been passed through a democratic process “until the entire process was flagrantly violated and bypassed by the Oversight Committee [OC].”

More than 100 English professors from several colleges across Delhi University (DU) have objected to a statement issued by the university administration on the revised English syllabus where texts by Mahasweta Devi, Bama, and Sukirtharini were dropped.

A collective statement demanded the reinstatement of the three texts that were dropped.

In the statement, the professors said the syllabus of English honours had been passed through a democratic process “until the entire process was flagrantly violated and bypassed by the Oversight Committee [OC].”

Teachers said that the interference of DU’s Oversight Committee has forced them to work without any official syllabus from July 2019.

The statement went on to say: “Due to the interference of the OC, at the beginning of almost every semester since July 2019, there is no official syllabus available to students and teachers, costing us precious time and mental resources. This past month, the OC has put paid to every democratic deliberation and due process that we had ensured our syllabus came through.”

The Delhi University had responded to criticism by saying that the syllabus is of “inclusive nature” and that authors were selected “without consideration of their religion, caste, and creed”.

“It is rather shocking that Delhi University makes a statement in which it says that diversity and inclusion can be done without consideration of religion, caste and creed when by definition diversity and inclusion mean including diverse voices,” responding to the varsity’s stance, the English department professors from various colleges said.

“It is ironic that the above statement by the University claims to support a syllabus that is inclusive, while in fact, it has done everything in its power to EXCLUDE diverse voices. Furthermore, those that have been excluded are already members of a historically excluded community. 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? The University and its classroom space has historically been premised upon encouraging free debate and thought. Our syllabus includes texts and readings that sensitise students to social issues through stories, poems, plays and essays,” read the statement.

The teachers demand the reinstatement of works by Mahasweta Devi, Bama and Sukirtharani in the Core Women’s Writing Paper of semester V.

They also demanded that the Oversight Committee should immediately pass the syllabus for Semester VI (without any changes) rather than starting the process just before the commencement of the next semester