'Third world writings' trigger controversy in Kuvempu varsity

Syndicate members oppose inclusion of essays by Nandy, Sainath

'Third world writings' trigger controversy in Kuvempu varsity

Journalist P Sainath’s essay ‘Fear of Democracy’ and Ashis Nandy’s ‘Gandhi after Gandhi’ are prescribed for the sixth semester BA English optional students. ‘Fear of Democracy’ speaks of intolerance among the upper middle class in Mumbai towards dalits who assemble every year to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti.

Sainath has made a passing reference in the article to then BJP-Shiv Sena government’s decision to drop over 1,000 cases related to atrocity against SC/STs in Maharashtra which has created displeasure among a section of Syndicate members of Kuvempu University.

In the Syndicate meeting held last month, Ashis Nandy’s article ‘Gandhi after Gandhi’ which is a satire on modern Indian politics, which has drifted away from Gandhian ideology, has also been opposed.

Syndicate members have expressed reservation against accommodating the works of Kannada writers like Girish Karnad and Vaidehi in the English literature syllabus. Even ABVP has submitted a memorandum to the Vice-Chancellor seeking withdrawal of ‘controversial’ texts from the syllabus.

Organisations like Karnataka Dalita Sangharsha Samiti and Bahumata Sanghatane have demanded the University to retain ‘Fear of Democracy,’ the essay which celebrates Dr Ambedkar’s personality.

Dalita Sangharsha Samiti  is of the opinion that ‘Fear of Democracy’ initiates a healthy debate on dalit issues and has said that efforts to withdraw the text from the syllabus will be protested.

Vice Chancellor Professor B S Sherigar sought the opinion from English Board of Studies over the issue. English BoS has decided to stand by the syllabus which has been okayed by academic council and was taught last year.

In the report submitted to the V-C on Wednesday, English  Board of Studies  has said that there is nothing objectionable as such in the syllabus and English literature need to mean the literature composed by Western authors. The V-C has said that the report will be tabled in the next Syndicate meeting.

‘Give us freedom’

Teachers of English literature in affiliated colleges of Kuvempu University are of the opinion that Syndicate has exceeded its brief by raising objection against the syllabus which has already been prescribed. “Teachers should have the freedom to design the syllabus and efforts to encroach the same is undemocratic,” they said.

Regarding the objection against prescribing the works of Girish Karnad, Vaidehi and other Kannada writers to English literature students, teachers said, “English language, the lingua franca has enabled us to enjoy the writings of African writers also. Booker and Nobel are no longer prerogative of Western writers. Mahashwethadevi received the highest civilian honour of France, and her works are studied in Western Universities.

Many Kannada writers were discussed in western academic circles also as their works were translated into English. It forms the obligation of the University to provide space for local writers and issues in the syllabus.”

“When inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural studies is the buzzword in the academic circles, it amounts to deceiving the students if we force them to study Victorian and Elizabethan literature,” they said.

The cultural, political and economic views of P Sainath, Ashis Nandy will sure enrich the sensibilities of students, they said.Syndicate member Dharmaprasad who opposed the syllabus in the meeting told Deccan Herald that some texts in the syllabus have derogatory remarks against BJP and Shiv Sena leaders.

“My objection is against such texts which were included in the syllabus by a few vested interests,” he said.

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