DAYS AFTER Delhi University’s department of Sociology recommended the inclusion of certain chapters of a book by Nandini Sundar for the masters course, it has been sent back to the department for reconsideration following opposition from members of National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF).
The recommendation to include certain chapters of Sundar’s book, The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, was placed during the academic council meeting last Thursday. The department wanted it to be a part of the reading list for the Political Sociology paper.
According to a member of the academic council, the NDTF — a BJP-backed teachers’ wing — lodged its protest regarding the inclusion with a comment on the author and the case against her in Chhattisgarh. When other teachers said that it is just an allegation and that there is no chargesheet in the case, the NDTF raised their problem with the title of the book.
“The objection was over the title of the book with the allegation that it seemed to propagate war against India through the spread of Maoist ideologies. I argued that the university is an intellectual, social and cultural space, where many perspectives are allowed to be discussed and debated. We encourage critical enquiry and therefore all ideas, including Maoism, should be read and debated within their historical context. Moreover, Nandini Sundar’s work is an academic exercise born out of research. We should be cautious against suppressing intellectual enquiry,” said Richa Raj, an academic council member and associate professor of History at Jesus and Mary College.
Geeta Bhatt, an AC member who also belongs to NDTF, said their objection was only against the title of the book. “As the title of the book gave an impression that India is fighting a war in Bastar, which is not at all true… We asked the head of the department to tell us the content of the book. When she could not do so, we, in a very democratic manner, asked for a review and building a consensus before introduction.”
Sundar, professor of Sociology at Delhi School of Economics, said, “I do not know what are people’s reason for objection. Those who are doing so have clearly not read the book and do not understand sociology. It is not about the book or me but it is trying to curtail what the department wants to teach.” NDTF members also suggested that if Sundar’s book is to be included, then Ahuti, a book that talks about the massacre of nationalists in Kerala, should also be made a part of the reading list.
“Ahuti is not an intellectual and academic exercise… When no consensus could be reached on the matter, it had to be sent back to the department,” said an AC member, who did not wish to be named.