'Need Diverse Perspectives’: DU Profs on Removal of Mohd Iqbal from Syllabus

Iqbal was taught under the course ‘Indian Political Thought-II'.

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On 26 May, Delhi University’s Academic Council unanimously decided to remove a sub-unit on Urdu poet, thinker, and author Muhammad Iqbal from the political science syllabus, despite opposition from the academic community.

Chapters about Iqbal, who wrote Saare Jaha Se Achha, were taught under the Delhi University's political science syllabus for decades.

N Sukumar, a political science professor, told The Quint that this was not the first attempt to remove material about Iqbal from the syllabus.

“Around 15 years ago, there was an attempt to remove Iqbal from the syllabus. However, the attempt did not succeed. Back then, they did not have a majority in the Academic Council," Sukumar said.  

However, on 26 May, the proposal was passed unanimously in the meeting. The meeting that began at 10.30 pm went on till around 1.30 am.

A statement from the office of the DU vice chancellor read, “Allama Iqbal was dropped from the Political Science syllabus during the discussion on the undergraduate course in the 1014th Academic Council meeting of University of Delhi. Presiding over the meeting, Vice Chancellor Prof. Yogesh Singh said that those who laid the foundation to break India should not be in the syllabus. The Vice-Chancellor's proposal was unanimously passed by the House.”  

The Quint spoke to DU professors and members of the Academic Council about how the course was removed and why it was important for students to learn about Iqbal and his writing.  


'Iqbal Wrote Songs Supporting Muslim League'

The statement from the VC's office read, “Regarding Iqbal, the Vice-Chancellor said that Iqbal wrote songs supporting the 'Muslim League' and the "Pakistan Movement". Iqbal was the first to raise the idea of partition of India and establishment of Pakistan. Instead of teaching such persons, we should study our national heroes.”  

Earlier, the department’s Committee on Courses had dissented to the removal. However, when it was proposed in the Academic Council meeting, it was unanimously approved.  

The Academic Council comprises 26 elected members and a number of authorities such as the VC, the registrar, the heads of Departments, and principals of colleges. The meetings are chaired by the VC. Despite some opposition in the meeting, a majority favoured the removal.  

Vikas Gupta, a DU professor and member of the Academic Council, said:

"We argued that Iqbal contributed to Indian nationalism, he wrote the song Saare Jaha se Achha. It is necessary for us to engage with different trajectories of thought on nationalism. However, despite our opposition, a decision was taken to drop the course because he had ‘put forward the two-nation theory’."

Iqbal’s presidential address in December 1930 was seen as the first exposition of the two-nation theory, which would ultimately lead to the birth of Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan, he was named the national poet. 

Maya John, a history professor and member of the Academic Council, said, “Some members in the AC are from the right-wing dispensation. They decided to drop the chapter arguing that he wanted a separate nation. They put a lot of pressure and because there was a majority, it was accepted this time.” 


Why Professors Are Opposing the Move 

Iqbal was taught under the course ‘Indian Political Thought-II'. The readings under the unit comprised chapters from books such as Speeches and Statements in S Hay’s Sources of Indian Tradition. Another chapter in the unit was Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, which is a compilation of lectures delivered by Muhammad Iqbal on Islamic philosophy and published in 1930. A few pages of Madani’s Composite Nationalism and Islam, which envisioned a united India for both Muslims and non-Muslims, was part of the unit too.

Professor N Sukumar, who teaches political science, said, “Iqbal played an important role in history and we need to have different perspectives. I might not agree with every thinker but that does not mean that we do not need it... If Iqbal is being removed, then they should consider replacing him with someone else.”  

He added,  

"I believe that a good teacher will introduce different perspectives into the classroom and leave it to the students to decide what to think."

Professor Maya John said, “Different thoughts exist, and they should be taught to students. We are not asking students to endorse a certain view. Ideas are taught with context and debates. If they are removing Iqbal, they should bring in another early 20th Muslim thinker. They could bring in Madani who talked about pluralism, and secularism.”  

The university has also removed a chapter titled ‘Inequality and Difference’ which was taught by the History department. A new course on Savarkar is being introduced in the department too. The council also decided that the philosophy course on Dr BR Ambedkar will be retained with 'changes'. Earlier, the Standing Committee had suggested dropping the course.

Meanwhile, the Delhi unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarti Parishad (ABVP) said in a statement, “Delhi University academic council decided to scrap fanatic theological scholar Mohd Iqbal from DU’s political science syllabus. Mohd Iqbal is called the ‘philosophical father of Pakistan’. He was the key player in establishing Jinnah as a leader in Muslim League. Mohd Iqbal is as responsible for India’s Partition as Mohammad Ali Jinnah is...”  

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