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Teachers get rap for play

A Haryana university has ticked off two teachers in its English department for creating "a kind of dissention" about the army in an epilogue to a play staged on campus three days after the Uri terror attack.

By BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY
  • Published 9.11.16
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New Delhi, Nov. 8: A Haryana university has ticked off two teachers in its English department for creating "a kind of dissention" about the army in an epilogue to a play staged on campus three days after the Uri terror attack.

The play, Draupadi, depicting the rape of a tribal woman by state special forces, was performed at the Central University of Haryana in Mahendragarh on September 21. After it ended, an epilogue was read out citing allegations against the army of fake encounter killings in tribal areas and rapes in Kashmir.

In letters to programme coordinators Snehsata and Manoj Kumar, the university said the epilogue seemed to create "a kind of dissention among the students in particular and the public in general".

The university, which is under the Union HRD ministry, said it could have been avoided "due to its utter irrelevance to the story or performance".

Snehsata has clarified that the epilogue, approved by the English department and read out by her, only intended to give proper context to the play.

An inquiry committee was set up by the university after the epilogue - not a part of Mahasweta Devi's short story on which the play was based -stirred protests by Sangh student wing ABVP and a few ex-servicemen. The committee's findings were discussed yesterday by the university executive council (EC), which approved and adopted them.

"The EC... shared sentiments of all concerned. After considering the matter in detail, the EC resolved that the report be approved and adopted," the university said in its letters to the teachers.

According to the committee, the sacrifice of army soldiers in saving the country from external and internal dangers could not be underrated and compromised in any way.

The committee felt the performance date was wrongly decided and emanated from the organisers' inattentiveness to the Uri incident.

In its warning to Snehsata, the university said: "Snehsata is informed that strict disciplinary action in accordance with the provision contained in the agreement of services of the teachers will be taken against her in case of repetition of such acts."

In a separate letter, the university warned Manoj Kumar to be careful in the future.

In a statement sent to reporters, Snehsata said: "It is unfortunate and disappointing that the university authority, instead of defending the academic freedom and dignity of its teachers, has surrendered and held us guilty of an imaginative wrong and warned us of strong action in future."

This kind of politically motivated action will have a "chilling effect on right-thinking teachers and students to not to discuss the serious violations of human rights like the rape, sexual harassment and extra-judicial killings of oppressed peoples", she said.

The statement claimed the attitude of the committee members appeared hostile from the beginning and its report and the subsequent disciplinary warning was unjust and unwarranted.

"The department wanted to give tribute to Mahasweta Devi who raised the voices of the women repressed by patriarchal society and masculine state apparatuses, including the armed forces. And under the same patriarchal politics, I am being victimised in the name of the pride of armed forces," Snehsata claimed.

Kumar termed the decision "unfortunate".