Was Sri Hanuman a womaniser and did Ravana and Lakshmana seduce Sita?
These questions were raised on Friday before the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan during the hearing of a petition accusing Delhi University of having “sacrilegious references” to the Hindu deities Hanuman and Sita in its syllabus for the History Honours course.
Senior advocate MN Krishnamani appearing for the petitioners said to the bench: “Tolerance among Hindus does not give the right to anyone to publish anything. I have read all types of Ramayana and nowhere have I ever read such references.” The eight petitioners are Dina Nath Batra, Dr Ravindra Nath Pal, Vidyasagar Verma, Archana Sohan Lal Ram Rang, Dr Payal Mago, Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Ram Gopal Aggarwal and Atul Rawat.
The court initially declined to entertain the plea. Krishnamani claimed that when another publication hurt the sentiments of a minority community, it was immediately withdrawn.
The senior advocate said the offensive article, Three Hundred Ramanayas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, authored by the late scholar A.K. Ramanujan was recommended reading for the second-year students of the BA (Honours) course in History at Delhi University (DU).
“They say Hanuman was a ladies’ man. The question is, how can you let students read such offending and “distorted facts” that hurt the religious sentiments?” said Krishnamani. He added that the language of the essay was so perverse, abusive and below the expected standards that it was “causing irreparable damage to the impressionable minds.”
The bench finally yielded and asked Delhi University’s vice-chancellor to examine the desirability of removing the “sacrilegious references” in the reading material.
The bench instructed the vice-chancellor to call for a report from the expert committee that was formed six months ago, when the petitioners had first moved the Delhi High Court. The VC is expected to take a decision after according a hearing to Dina Nath Batra, one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court.
Rejecting the plea to fix a time frame for the expert committee to submit its report, the court directed the Vice Chancellor to place his final decision before the academic council in due course. However, the court granted the petitioners the liberty of approaching the court again if they were not satisfied or did not get a fair hearing.
The petitioners had approached the Supreme Court after a Delhi High Court bench dismissed their petition on the ground that it did not have jurisdiction under Article 226 to entertain such a plea, leading to Friday’s hearing. The petition was rejected on July 19, 2008.