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India: Shrinking Academic Freedoms - Two books on Delhi University’s history reading list recommended for removal

30 August 2018

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[updated on 5 September 2018]

The Times of India

DU in a flap over two books on its history reading list

TNN | Aug 29, 2018

NEW DELHI: Delhi University has literally seen “red” and has recommended the removal of two books from the history reading list because they “glorify Naxalism” and “legitimise conversion of tribals to Christianity”. The advice of the university’s standing committee on academic matters coincidentally came on the same day when a number of people were arrested across the country for alleged links to Naxal groups.

On Tuesday, Nandini Sundar’s Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar, 1854-2006 and Archana Prasad’s Against Ecological Romanticism: Verrier Elwin and the Making of an Anti-modern Tribal Identity were sharply criticised, the first for glorifying Naxalism, and the second for references to tribal conversion. The committee suggested that the history department should remove the books from the reading list because some members charged them with not being “fit for students in DU”.

Immediately after, Sundar remonstrated, “Across the academic world the book is well accepted and has been widely cited. If they have any issues with the book, let them archive the history of Bastar till 2006 and write their own academic book.”

Prasad described the action as a “political step”. Speaking to TOI, Prasad said, “On Tuesday they arrested activists calling them ‘urban Naxals’, and they are trying to paint us with the same brush. But they have nothing against us, so this is how they are targeting us.”

Sundar pointed out that her book has received three awards: Infosys Prize for Social Science in 2010, the Ester Boserup Prize for Research on Development from Copenhagen in 2016 and the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies in 2017.

Geeta Bhatt, one of the panel members who objected to the books’ contents, told TOI that Sundar had “justified the acts of the Naxals by saying that they are involved in these activities as they are unemployed”. As for Prasad’s book, she said the author legitimised conversion by writing that “conversion of tribals is inconsequential to what the tribals face”.

Prasad countered these claims and maintained that her book was about tribals and it had references to Christian conversion as well as Hindutva activities. “They should have read the book before objecting to it,” she said.

Last year, the right-leaning teachers’ group, NDTF, had opposed the inclusion of another of Sundar’s book, The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, from the sociology reading list. Eventually, the book was indeed dropped from the reading list.

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[ SEE ALSO Response from a group of Teachers from Delhi University.

India: Book titles dropped from history reading list, Delhi University surrenders to saffron pressure | Press Statement by Democratic Teachers Front ]

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‏ @nandinisundar

The Burning Forest has not been dropped from the political sociology syllabus. The course is being currently revised; the course that was sent to the Standing Council/Academic Council was the old unrevised course. The TOI story was a malicious plant by certain members.
7:14 AM - 5 Sep 2018


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