Oddly, Not Sad: Arundhati Roy as TN Uni Pulls Her Book From Course

Arundhati Roy said that she was more happy about the fact that it had been a part of the curriculum once.

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India
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After ABVP called Arundhati Roy’s book ‘Walking with Comrades’ anti-national, TN university removes it from the syllabus. 
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Commenting on a Tamil Nadu university’s decision to remove her book Walking With the Comrades from its curriculum after the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyalaya Parishad (ABVP) reportedly asked the university for the same, writer Arundhati Roy said that she was more happy about the fact that it had been a part of the curriculum once, than sad that it was removed.

“When I heard of the Manomaniam Sundaranar University’s decision to remove my book Walking With the Comrades from its curriculum following threats and pressure from the ABVP—oddly enough I was more happy than sad because I had no idea that it was in the curriculum in the first place. I am glad it has been taught for several years.” 
Arundhati Roy

Roy further said “I am not in the least bit shocked or surprised that it has been removed from the syllabus now”.

She also pointed out that it was her duty, as a writer, to write the book, not to fight for its place in the curriculum.

“That is for others to do or not do,” she said.

“It was my duty as a writer to write it. It is not my duty to fight for its place on a university curriculum. That is for others to do or not do. Either way it has been widely read and as we know bans and purges do not prevent writers from being read. This narrow, shallow, insecure attitude towards literature displayed by our current regime is not just detrimental to its critics. It is detrimental to millions of its own supporters. It will limit and stunt our collective intellectual capacity as a society and a country that is striving for a place of respect and dignity in the world.”

WHAT HAD HAPPENED?

According to The News Minute (TNM), Tamil Nadu’s Manonmaniam Sundaranar University has removed Arundhati Roy’s book ‘Walking with Comrades’ from its syllabus based on a request from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), RSS’ student wing.

The announcement came out on Wednesday, 11 November. According to TNM, this was a week after the ABVP submitted a petition asking for the removal of the book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘Walking with Comrades’ by Arundhati Roy was part of the additional reading material for students studying in the third semester in MA English Literature at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, according to TNM.

Further, according to TNM, it is recommended under the ‘Commonwealth Literature’ elective and has been a part of the university’s syllabus since 2017.

Penguin Random House, which has published the book, describes it as a non-fiction account of ‘a little-known rebel movement in India’, reported TNM.

The Penguin Random House website reads:

“Deep in the forests, under the pretense of battling Maoist guerillas, the Indian government is waging a vicious total war against its own citizens - a war undocumented by a weak domestic press and fostered by corporations eager to exploit the rare minerals buried in tribal lands...Roy takes readers to the unseen frontlines of this ongoing battle, chronicling her months spent living with the rebel guerillas in the forests. In documenting their local struggles, Roy addresses the much larger question of whether global capitalism will tolerate any societies existing outside of its colossal control.”

WHAT THE ABVP ALLEGED

According to TNM, ABVP in a letter sent to the university’s Vice Chancellor, alleged that the book openly encourages the armed revolutions of Maoists against the nation.

“It is saddening that this book has been in the syllabus for the last three years. For the past three years, Naxal and Maoist ideas were directly imposed on the students. The teachers also taught anti-national ideas as lessons to students. Since the book kindles hatred towards the nation in the minds of students, many students were subjected to stress.”
ABVP’s petition

“ABVP will take this to the attention of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) and organise several large protests if there is any delay in this,” the petition further added.

WHAT THE UNIVERSITY SAID

According to TNM, following receipt of the complaint by the VC, a committee was formed to examine the matter. The committee comprised of the Dean, the Board of Studies Chairman (who framed the syllabus with this book), the present Chairman of the Board of Studies and the Director of Academic Affairs.

“We had also received some oral complaints from a few members of the University Syndicate. The committee studied the matter and recommended that this book be removed from the syllabus since it has some objectionable content.”
K Pitchumani, the VC of the university, to TNM.

According to TNM, he also said that since the paper is an elective for students in the third semester of MA English Literature programme, it was not brought to the university’s attention for the last three years. Further, the VC informed TNM that Roy’s book has “now been replaced with another book by Padma Shri-winning Naturalist Krishnan”.

REACTIONS

The university, however, has reportedly garnered flak from political leaders, for removing the book.

Madurai Lok Sabha MP and CPI (M) leader Su Venkatesan condemned the university’s decision. Accordind to TNM, DMK MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian, who is a poet, also tweeted that this act of removing the book from the syllabus reflect authoritarianism of those in power.

(With inputs from TNM.)

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