A fresh debate has broken out among DU academia following the removal of AK Ramanujan’s “300 Ramayanas” from the History (hons) syllabus by the Academic Council.
However, this time the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) has expressed relief at the removal of the essay, claiming that it was offensive to religious sentiments.
“We wanted it removed as it hurts Hindu sentiments. Of the 300 versions of the Ramayana, Ramanujan has included only five examples, which hurt religious sentiments. Variations in a certain version of the Ramayana are always welcome, but if it abuses Ram then it is unacceptable. Even the Oxford University Press has said that they will not reissue the book. So when there is no copy available, there is no question of teaching it,” said Parveen Garg, President of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
However, sections of the academia have claimed that it is really the diverse portrayal of characters in the epic that has sparked outrage. “The main issue of contention in Ramanujan’s version is the Dasharatha Jataka, where Ram and Sita have been portrayed as siblings — something that goes against the very concept of relations between the two characters. These are issues that a section is unable to handle. What they find offensive may not be offensive to others and vice versa,” said a historian, who requested anonymity.
However, teachers maintain that the essay should be looked upon purely from an academic perspective. “This is a purely academic essay and each version is meaningful. Students should be exposed to the multiplicity of tradition. We are a pluralist society and unless we understand that pluralism, we can’t retain the tolerance we are known for. This is something students must understand,” said Ujjaini Ray, professor of History at Lady Sri Ram College .