In Delhi University, medieval ruler Sher Shah Suri in eye of storm
In Delhi University (DU), the founder of Suri empire Sher Shah Suri has become a bone of contention between the right-wing teachers’ group—National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) --- and the department of History.
The NDTF has been demanding that a chapter on Suri be included in the syllabus of BA (Hons) in History. However, officials in the history department said that the same teachers’ group had opposed the chapter on Suri after which it was removed from the syllabus in 2016.
A chapter on Suri was being taught to BA (hons) in History students until 2015 in the medieval history paper. When the syllabus was revised to fit in the choice based credit system (CBCS) the same year, the chapter on Suri was removed. “There was opposition over History (hons) syllabus change by the members of NDTF then. The topics opposed included some books, readings and some chapters, including that on reforms by Sher Shah Suri,” said a history teacher, who wished not to be named.
Hansraj Suman, member of the council for academic affairs back then, said that the NDTF members had raised objections on many topics in the history syllabus. “The History department could not implement the revised syllabus in 2015 because of the objections. Now the NDTF members are demanding the same topics in the syllabus that they were once opposed,” he said.
In 2016, when the new History (hons) syllabus was implemented, some other chapters — including Babar’s invasion and Humayun’s struggle for empire — were also removed.
Sunil Kumar, head of the History department, said the changes were made to make the syllabus more contemporary. “We no longer teach course that are based around kings, rulers and dynasty. We only include emperors and rulers in the syllabus in context of some historical process. We have no idea why some teachers are making an issue about Suri now. The demand does not even fit in our syllabus structure,” he said.
Rasal Singh of NDTF, who made the demand for the inclusion of Suri in the syllabus said, “It does not matter if Suri is there or not in the syllabus at present. A chapter on him should be added now.”
He added that “Even though the rule of Sher Shah Suri was of only seven years, he made major contribution to the country including the construction of GT Road and chakbandi. He was the one who had issued the first rupiya. If the department is claiming that the NDTF had opposed the chapter on Sher Shah Suri, they can easily include it now based on our demand.”
The revised syllabus of four DU departments — History, English, Political Science and Sociology — have been courting controversy in DU after the members of NDTF and RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) objected to their content. The departments had revised the syllabus to fit in DU’s new learning outcome-based curriculum.
The syllabus of the four departments were sent back for “review” by the university’s academic council as well as executive council. Now after two rounds of revision, the final call on the syllabus will be taken by an oversight committee constituted by the University on Monday.
Though the History department has decided not to include the chapter again in the syllabus, other departments have made several changes.
The Political Science department, for example, has removed an article on “Naxalism” written by sociologist Nandini Sundar after opposition. An official at the department, however, said, “We have replaced it with another article of the same author. The new article is based on tribal movement.”
The English department has also removed a story on Gujarat riots, a paper on the Indian caste system and mention of Hindu scripture from the paper on homosexuality.
Meanwhile, members of NDTF wrote to the University vice chancellor on Friday and requested him not to approve the syllabi of these four departments. “Only papers of the first semester shall be approved and the rest of the syllabi should be again sent to the academic council and for discussion and approval,” the members representing NDTF said in the letter.