Kancha Illaiah

The meeting of the Delhi University Standing Committee for Academic Affairs, according to media reports, in its meeting on 24 October, 2018 has recommended to drop teaching of my three books for M.A. Political Science course. The three books are ‘Why I am not a Hindu’, ‘God as Political Philosopher: Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism’; and ‘Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution’

This is an unfortunate Anti-academic attempt, which is part of the larger RSS/BJP’s agenda to not to allow plural ideas to be taught to the students in the universities. The right wing academicians who demanded for removing the books said “his understanding of Hindu faith is wrong and there is no empirical data to establish his understanding’. While saying so they have not shown the basic academic ethic of reading my books.

God as Political Philosopher is my Ph.D. Thesis, which is heavily referenced. It has nothing to with Hindu faith. Post Hindu India is a book of massive data base from the village communities’ production knowledge and scientific experimentation process of various productive communities. Those who do not have any understanding of village production relations hardly understand that book. Unless they get back to the village life and study the production relations and they say it is anti-something or the other does not make sense. It is published by Sage an internationally reputed publishers. They cannot rubbish my research work of 10 long years.

Why I am Not a Hindu is known as a classic, being taught in many universities in the West and India. The Hindutva forces are opposing teaching and reading of this book in many countries—including in the Columbia University US. Scholars such as Lise McKean, Linda Hess, Eliza Kent etc., recommend it as an introduction level reading material on Hinduism. The Hindutva forces opposed but they did not succeed in removing it. The same forces are trying once again in DU.

The same forces are asking for inclusion of Savarkar’s book “ Hindutva-Who is a Hindu? and Golwalkar’s book ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ to be taught in the universities. Are these books referenced? Is there empirical data in these books?

While their right to ask for what they want to teach is part of their academic freedom but asking for removal of other books that they do not agree with is Anti-academic and destructive. Universities are meant for teaching and debating diversified ideas, concepts. Hundreds of thoughts must clash there. Universities are not theological institutes where only one religious ideas are taught.

The MHRD must not allow this kind of destructive un-academic processes to continue in DU and also in other universities. I appeal to the academic fraternity to fight this trend in the nation and protect the academic freedom and autonomy.

Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is Chairman T-MASS and political theorist.

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  1. Sally Dugman says:

    If ideas are erased, it is as if a book burning occurred. I am sorry whenever this happens and regardless of the means used. …

    “The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding–which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together–blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author . . .”
    ― Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril

    “Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory… In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
    ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

    “Where they burn books they will in the end burn people too.”
    ― Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton: A Memoir

    Heinrich Heine:

    Das küßte mich auf deutsch und sprach auf deutsch
    (Man glaubt es kaum
    Wie gut es klang) das Wort: “Ich liebe dich!”
    Es war ein Traum.

    I had once a beautiful fatherland.
    The oak tree
    Grew so high there, violets nodded softly.
    It was a dream.

    It kissed me in German and spoke in German
    (You would hardly believe
    How good it sounded) the words: “I love you!”
    It was a dream.
    In Der Fremde (In a Foreign Land)

    “Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.”
    ― Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education

    Ray Bradbury
    “My men are my references. They’re waiting outside for the books. They’re dangerous.”
    “Men like that always are.”
    ― Ray Bradbury, A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories

    “In 1891 the Brazilian Minister of Finance decreed the abolition of history; he ordered the destruction of every document which dealt in any way with slavery or the slave trade; a nation-wide burning of the books.”
    ― Manu Herbstein, AMA

    At least you are not thrown in prison for your views as happened to my parents’ friend Howard Fast. … We all must fight and continue to resist!

    I do know about what it is. When I was fighting against racism and was thirteen years old, I was spit on and sworn at by white supremacists. How scary is that for a girl? It is very frightening, but I was out the next day doing the same action.

    If your books are rejected by some colleges and universities, then find other programs in colleges and universities ACROSS THE WORLD to accept them and you WILL have the last word just as I did at age thirteen. DO NOT BE COWED!… No body will stick a rat cage on your face for your beliefs (reference to 1984 by George Orwell.)

  2. Sumanta Banerjee says:

    It seems that Indian intellectuals enjoyed more freedom under British rule while engaging in debates over religious beliefs and customs. In the early 19th century, Rammohan Roy dared to challenge Christianity (the religion of the ruling colonial rulers) – not from the orthodox Hindu position but from an agnostic viewpoint, and engaged in debates with English missionaries. All through the main part of the nineteenth century, the Bengali academic scene was marked by interesting debates in both Bengali and English journals over the virtues and vices of the three main prevailing religious faiths in India – Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. These journals and the meetings in public halls that used to take place, were easily accessible to the students as well as the common people, allowing them to make their choices. One of these students chose to convert to Christianity, in order to break out from the suffocating constraints of his Hindu society. He emerged to be the great Bengali poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta, who composed `Meghnad-Badh Kavya’ which, contrary to the mainstream Brahminical and Kshatriya narrative of the Ramayana, valorizes Meghnad (Ravana’s son) who was surreptiously killed by Rama’s brother Lakshman with the help of a traitor from Meghnad’s family, when Meghnad was praying in his temple Nikumbhila. When Madhusudan’s epic-poem came out in 1861, instead of raising a murmur of protest, the then Bengali intelligentzia hailed it as a major contribution to Bengali literature. Still later, as a school-child in the 1940s, I remember reading it as it was recommended as a text in my school syllabus, and I was touched by the tragic tones in the narrative, which I thought as a child, reflected a fight between two families (a familiar problem in those days) rather than a Hindu religious conflict. Today, if `Madhusudan-Badh Kavya’ is translated into Hindi, or for that matter other India languages, the Sangh Parivar-led UGC will surely ban its entry into the campus – and set their gangs to lynch those who read it .