Tamil Nadu university deletes Arundhati Roy’s book on Maoists from syllabus after ABVP’s protest

After complaints from several people, including the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, against Arundhati Roy’s ‘Walking with the Comrades’ being part of its M A English syllabus, a state-run university in Tamil Nadu has removed it from the curriculum.
By Press Trust of India| Posted by Nandini | Chennai
PUBLISHED ON NOV 13, 2020 10:06 AM IST

After complaints from several people, including the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, against Arundhati Roy’s ‘Walking with the Comrades’ being part of its M A English syllabus, a state-run university in Tamil Nadu has removed it from the curriculum.

The ABVP and others alleged the book glorified the ultras and was anti-national in content.

Opposition parties, the DMK and CPI(M), have opposed the move to take the book off the syllabus that chronicles the author’s journey to hideouts of Maoists in Chhattisgarh and the way they operated out of the jungles.

The book has been part of the syllabus from 2017-18 batch for the third semester of MA in English Literature of Tirunelveli based Manonmaniam Sundaranar University’s affiliated colleges.

“Last week we got a written complaint from the ABVP.

Subsequently, there were lot of other representations. We received complaints from our syndicate members as well,” MSU’s Vice Chancellor K Pitchumani told PTI.

Such complaints underscored the ‘controversial’ contents in the book and wanted it to be deleted from the curriculam for students, he said.

Hence, a committee comprising senior academicians was set up to look into the matter. The former chairman of the board of studies who framed the syllabus and the incumbent chief were also part of it, he said.

“The committee met on Wednesday and they decided the withdrawal of the book from syllabus for its sensitive nature and in its place, a book of Padma awardee and naturalist, M Krishnan’s ‘My Native Land, Essays on Nature’ has been included,” he said.

“This has been implemented immediately,” he said.

Krishnan (1912-96) was a renowned naturalist, a pioneer in Indian wildlife photography and writer and he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1969.

The decision would be approved at a meeting of the university’s Standing Committee of Academic Affairs, he said, adding they were not for ‘controversy’ since academics alone were important.

Asked if the ‘sensitive’ nature of the book was not taken into account when it was included in the syllabus, the top university official said,”probably it went unnoticed.” However, as soon as representations were received against the book, prompt follow-up action was taken, he said.

In its complaint, the ABVP’s south Tamil Nadu unit alleged Roy’s book openly supported Maoists and disseminated anti-national views.

“It is a matter of regret that this book has been part of the syllabus for the past three years. Through this, the Naxal and Maoist ideology has been imposed on the students,” the ABVP said demanding the book’s withdrawal.

Roy’s interaction with Maoists and her visits to forests where she met them first appeared in an English magazine in 2010 and it was later published as a book.

DMK youth wing secretary and MP Kanimozhi said in a tweet that power and politics deciding “what is arts, what is literature and what the students should read” would destroy the pluralistic feature of the society.

CPI(M) Lok Sabha member S Venkatesan said on his twitter handle removal of the book was condemnable and wanted the move to be rescinded.

The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artistes Association general secretary Aadhavan Dheetchanya announced a virtual protest meet on Thursday evening to oppose the deletion of the book from syllabus.

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