A TN University Withdraws Arundhati Roy’s Book After ABVP Complaint. Who are the Losers? Students

Social Commentary

A TN University Withdraws Arundhati Roy’s Book After ABVP Complaint. Who are the Losers? Students

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Whether it is web shows, movies or advertisements, we are in the season of boycotts and bans. The latest addition to this ever-growing list is Arundhati Roy’s book Walking With the Comrades.

The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli city on Wednesday decided to withdraw the book from its syllabus following a complaint from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, reported The Hindu.

The book based on Roy’s visit to Maoist camps was part of the university’s postgraduate English syllabus since 2017. “A committee comprising academic deans and board of studies members had considered the complaint and decided to withdraw the book as it may be inappropriate to teach a controversial book for students,” Vice Chancellor K Pitchumani told The Indian Express. The book was removed and replaced with a few essays from naturalist M Krishnan’s My Native Land: Essays on Nature.

“The book was included in the syllabus in 2017. It was only a week ago that it was brought to our notice that Ms Roy had glorified Maoists. So we formed a committee to discuss the issue and the panel recommended its withdrawal,” Pitchumani added.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Dakshin Tamil Nadu Joint Secretary C Vignesh filed a complaint with the university authorities accusing the book of “openly supporting the killing fields and riots by the anti-national Maoists”, according to The Hindu. He said it was regrettable that Maoist and Naxal ideas had been imposed on the students for the last three years.

“The teachers also taught an anti-national subject. Students are subjected to mental agony as the book encourages hatred against our country,” he said, demanding its removal from the syllabus and an apology from the university.

The DMK and the CPI (M) condemned the decision. “It is an attempt to saffronise education and a mindset against alternate views,” DMK deputy general secretary and former Minister, A Raja said. He pointed out that this was an attempt to brand ideological opponents as Urban Naxals and anti-Indians. “Actually, the communal forces are against the pluralistic nature of the country. Students have to learn and unlearn about Hitler and Idi Amin, and such efforts would improve their intelligence,” he added.

DMK women’s wing leader and MP Kanimozhi put it very simply, stating, “If politics is going to decide what is art, literature, culture and curriculum, it is very dangerous for a pluralistic society.” CPI (M) MP Su. Venkatesan demanded the withdrawal of the decision to remove the book, asserting that curriculum should be decided only by the syllabus committee, standing committee and the senate of the university.

Social media users pointed out that university is about being open to all points of view and then deciding for oneself.

Justice DY Chandrachud was quoted, “if you don’t like the book, don’t read it.”

Education shouldn’t be governed by politics and students should be allowed a free exchange of all ideas. Only through debate and discussion should one discard or adopt ideas, not by boycotts and bans. The hostility towards certain ideas enforced through strong diktats will only leave our education system poorer.