The University of Mumbai’s decision to drop Such a Long Journey, the Booker-nominated novel by Rohinton Mistry, after protests from the Bhartiya Vidyarthi Sena has not only led to dissent among the academia, but also the people of the city.
“We are disturbed and alarmed by the manner in which the vice-chancellor of the university Rajan Welukar bowed down to he demands of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena and had the novel dropped from the syllabus overnight, purely on account of the group’s displeasure,” stated a letter signed by members of eight citizens’ groups including Citizens’ Initiative for Peace and Revolutionary Cultural Movement.
Balasaheb Thackeray’s grandson Aditya (20) met the VC on the issue at the end of August and the book was dropped from the SYBA syllabus within 24 hours.
The book is set in 1971 and chronicles the story of Gustad Noble, a Byculla-born Parsi, and his personal struggle with what is right and wrong. The novel is about his ambition and betrayal.
The book has been translated in several foreign languages and is rated as one of the best books on the city. From the principal of St Xavier’s College, Father Mascarenhas.to eminent journalist and writer Aroon Tikekar, everyone has expressed their displeasure at
University officials, meanwhile, are planning to meet the V-C about the issue. “This was a knee-jerk reaction. While the sentiments of people should be taken into a consideration, the V-C could have appointed a committee of academics and taken their view. His reaction shows that the university will bow to political pressure and we will discuss the issue with him,” said a faculty member.
Members of the board of studies of literature, which determines the syllabus, said that some things need to be done to avoid communal disharmony.
“If something is looked at without its context it cane come across as derogatory. But this is literature and a work of fiction and it is about context,” said Marie Fernandes, a member of the board of studies.