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Delhi University wants the word ‘Hindu’ dropped from titles of two chapters on BR Ambedkar

Several academics condemned the proposal and alleged it was part of a concerted effort to purge curriculums of content unpalatable to Hindutva ideologues

Basant Kumar Mohanty New Delhi Published 24.05.23, 05:05 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Delhi University’s syllabus panel has recommended dropping the word “Hindu” from the titles of two chapters on B.R. Ambedkar in an elective paper that includes content critical of the Hindu social order and its treatment of women.

Several academics condemned the proposal and alleged it was part of a concerted effort to purge curriculums — from school textbooks to university syllabuses — of content unpalatable to Hindutva ideologues.


Delhi University’s (DU) “standing committee on syllabus and content” has objected to the word “Hindu” in the titles of two chapters — Ambedkar on Caste and Critique on Hindu Social Order, and Rise and Fall of Hindu Women — in the paper Understanding Ambedkar.

This is an elective paper offered to students of all streams apart from those of political science, who get to study Ambedkar more thoroughly across several papers.

When the paper, prepared by the political science department, was introduced in 2012-13, the University Grants Commission had issued a circular to all universities saying they too should offer such a paper to all their students.

The standing committee suggestion has been sent to the “committee of courses” of the political science department. It’s this committee — made up of department faculty and subject teachers from various colleges — that had prepared the paper.

The committee of courses last week discussed the recommendation, with the general mood being opposed to the proposal, said N. Sukumar, a faculty member.

“Ambedkar’s original writings do mention the word ‘Hindu’ and his analysis of the social system was in the context of Hindu society,” Sukumar said. “It was felt that we cannot alter a single word from the titles.”

The final decision would be taken by the academic council, which is to meet on May 26.

A few days ago, the standing committee had suggested dropping a paper — Philosophy of B.R. Ambedkar — offered as an elective to BA philosophy students at every DU college.

On Monday, the committee modified its suggestion saying the paper not be dropped but converted into one on contemporary thinkers in general, including Ambedkar and others. The DU philosophy department is opposed to this.

The standing committee has also recommended dropping Allama Iqbal from the paper Modern Indian Political Thought, taught to undergraduate political science students.

DU had earlier too, on the NDA government’s watch, dropped from its syllabuses content related to unequal social systems, caste atrocities and rights violations.

In 2021, the university dropped Maheswata Devi’s short story Draupadi and autobiographical works by Dalit writers Bama and Sukartharini from its BA English honours syllabus. Draupadi portrays a tribal woman’s struggle against oppression.

“(There’s an) effort to dismantle any critical engagement on these issues in academic spaces. The attack on the syllabus is an attack on the philosophy of social justice and equality,” Sukumar said.

“Even if you do not like any (thinker) individually, we need to engage with different thinkers to bring alternative perspectives into the classroom.”

Former DU executive council member Abha Dev Habib said these attempts to interfere in university syllabuses were similar to the way the NCERT had removed from school textbooks references to caste, inequality, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Mughals and Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“This is a Right-wing attack. There is continued interference on political lines. There is no academic merit in these suggested changes. The government wants the younger generations not to know about the unequal social system,” Habib said.

An email sent to DU vice-chancellor Yogesh Singh seeking his reaction to the criticism has so far been unanswered.

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