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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Overruled at Delhi University: Objections to English and History undergrad syllabus

As per documents seen by The Indian Express, the UGCRC asked the English department to replace Kandasamy's collection of poems called 'Touch' with Premchand's 'Shroud' in the paper 'Indian Writing in English'.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | August 1, 2019 1:28:03 am
Delhi University, English undergrad syllabus in DU, History undergrad syllabus in du, du colleges, ABVP recently protested seeking revision of course material

Poet Meena Kandasamy should be replaced by Premchand, Amitav Ghosh by R K Narayan, and any reference to the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) or Jan Natya Manch should be removed. These were among suggestions the Undergraduate Curriculum Revision Committee (UGCRC) had sent to the English department to consider changes in their syllabus. Almost all were overruled.

Similarly, in the History syllabus, the committee said there was too much focus on the Delhi Sultanate but not enough on its fall; “regional” empires such as Vijayanagar were not given enough space; the rubric on ‘Hindu-Muslim relations’ “denotes wrong spirit”; and using ‘anti-Brahmanical trends’ in a rubric would not be appropriate.

Many of these suggestions, compiled and sent to the respective departments post objections by the National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), are not explained in detail, especially in case of the English department.

Eventually, though, the syllabi for all four courses — English, History, Political Science and Sociology — were passed by the Committee of Courses of the respective departments, as well as the respective Faculty Committees, with almost none of the changes and only minor tweaks.

In the list of objections sent to the department, several papers were sought to be removed with the only reason being given that it was “controversial”. As per documents seen by The Indian Express, the UGCRC asked the English department to replace Kandasamy’s collection of poems called ‘Touch’ with Premchand’s ‘Shroud’ in the paper ‘Indian Writing in English’.

The reason given was that the latter was “better suited for popular culture of women’s writing”.

“The paper is called Indian Writing in English. Premchand is not an English writer. He was primarily an Urdu writer, whose work was translated into English. So the suggestion is factually incorrect. And who is to qualify who is better suited for what?” said an English teacher who did not wish to be named.

In the same paper, the UGCRC has asked that Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’ be replaced by R K Narayan’s ‘Swami and Friends’ as the latter was a “much more important and relevant writer”.

“We have already included Narayan in another rubric. Moreover, UGC’s learning outcome-based curriculum framework (LOCF) says that the syllabus should be more modern and contemporary, and in that sense Ghosh is better suited,” the teacher said.

In the paper on ‘Studies in Modern Indian Performance Traditions’, the UGCRC has sought that texts on Jan Natya Manch’s play ‘Aurat’, Badal Sircar’s play ‘Procession’, and two texts on IPTA all be removed because they are “controversial”.

This objection was raised in DU’s Academic Council as well by NDTF’s Rasal Singh. AC member Saikat Ghosh said, “… IPTA’s role in the spread of an anti-imperialist consciousness during the freedom struggle is well known, and Jan Natya Manch’s Aurat also focusses on the need for women’s education, which resonates in slogans such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. It transcends partisan politics and ideologies.”

The English department, therefore, decided not to incorporate any of these suggestions.

In the History department, the UGCRC asked that a unit on ‘Rise of Sikhs’ be included in the paper ‘History of India (1500-1600)’. However, the department’s Committee of Courses (CoC) in its written response said this was “unwarranted” as “all recent research underlines that the making of the Sikh Community belongs to the period 1600-1750”, and that it would therefore be included in the corresponding paper.

Similarly, they also objected to the “dropping of Sher Shah Suri”, even though the department claims he has not been taught since 2016. This was done so as to not construct a narrative around kings and dynasties.

In the History of India VIII (1857-1950) paper, the objection is to a unit titled ‘Left Movements: Peasant and Workers’, they said demanded that it be made into two rubrics — the ‘Indian Left’ and ‘Peasant and Workers’ Movements’.

In the ‘History of India (1200-1500)’ paper, the UGCRC has objected to over-emphasis on Delhi Sultanate. The CoC however said that the charge was “ill-founded”.

“There are 4 units with 15 sub-rubrics out of which only three deal with the Delhi Sultanate including its sources,” they said. Another objection is to not studying “regional” empires like Vijayanagar empire at length, the department has noted the use of the word “regional” as “extremely inappropriate” and argued that it is taught in many rubrics.

Professor Raj Kumar and Professor Sunil Kumar, Heads of Department of English and History respectively, refused to go into the details of the issue. UGCRC Head C S Dubey did not respond to repeated calls and texts by The Indian Express.

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