October 05, 2008
Supreme Court takes cognisance of outrageous DU textbook
Directs experts to examine objections
By Pramod Kumar
The article in the textbook, Three Hundred Ramayanas, depicts the epic’s heroes in a bad light. The article formed part of a collection Many Ramayanas, a book edited by Smt Paul Richman and published by Oxford University Press. Delhi University adopted Ramanujam’s text in 2005 as curriculum text for second-year BA (Hons.) history course. This saw even violent protests by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and some other organisations in the university.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court directed the five-member expert committee of Delhi University to consider the objections raised by Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti on blasphemous remarks made against Ramayana heroes in Delhi University textbook being taught to BA (Hons.) history students.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice JM Panchal and Justice P Sadashivam also told the petitioner Shri Dina Nath Batra to come to the court again if he is not satisfied with the response of the committee. The directive from the apex court came on September 19, 2008. The expert committee includes Prof BD Chattopadhyaya, Prof. RN Mishra, Prof MGS Narayanan, Smt Kapila Vatsayayan and Prof MK Dhawalkar.
After the Supreme Court directives Shri Dina Nath Batra has written to the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University requesting him to provide details of the findings by the expert committee so that he can go through them. He also sought an appointment with the VC.
Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti had approached the Supreme Court after a bench of Delhi High Court dismissed its plea demanding withdrawal of the offensive article written by AK Ramanujan being taught in BA (Hons.) second-year history course of Delhi University. A bench of the High Court headed by Justice Manmohan Sarin had postponed the hearing till the report of the expert committee is received, but the new bench of Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice S Murlidhar rejected its plea even without holding any debate in the case. This bench said the syllabus was based on “well researched” materials and rejected the contention that Hindu gods and goddesses were referred to in a “defamatory” and “derogatory” manner saying “these are folklore that are interpreted in various ways”.
The article in the textbook, Three Hundred Ramayanas, depicts the epic’s heroes in a bad light. The article formed part of a collection Many Ramayanas, a book edited by Smt Paul Richman and published by Oxford University Press. Delhi University adopted Ramanujam’s text in 2005 as curriculum text for second-year BA (Hons.) history course. This saw even violent protests by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and some other organisations in the university. The text recorded in the book is blasphemous. A five-member expert committee was formed in March 2008 by the Vice Chancellor following the protests and agitations across the country against the insulting text. The committee is still to submit its report.
Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti had prayed in the Supreme Court to pass an interim order directing the University of Delhi and Academic Council to remove the offending article from the course curriculum and restrain Dr Upinder Singh of History Department and Arun Thesis Typing Centre, to further compile or make copies and distribute the copies of the article. Dr Upinder Singh is also daughter of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Meanwhile, Shri Dina Nath Batra wrote to Delhi University to know about the details of the expert committee. But what the university replied to Shri Batra through its letter dated September 15 (No. Info/OA/945/2008/25202) wondered everyone. The university denied giving any information about the committee members claiming that “the disclosure of identities of the members can endanger their physical safety.”
The university also tried to misguide Shri Batra over the number of the members of the committee. The university said the number of the members is “four”. Though, the Union HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh through his letter dated April 12, 2008 (No. F.4-14/2008-Desk (U)) to Dr Subramanian Swamy informed that the number of the members of the expert committee is “five”.
Expressing concern over the so-called threat to physical safety of the committee members Shri Batra again wrote to the university authorities saying, “It is a matter of concern not only for me but also for the whole teaching fraternity. I am sure that you must have informed the state concerned to provide them security cover.”
Since this blasphemous text has first been published by Oxford University Press, Shri Batra served a legal notice to the Press on September 3 citing the objectionable contents of the published work and demanded immediate withdrawal of the blasphemous article from the book. He also demanded withdrawal of the permission granted to the University of Delhi to publish, use, and reproduce the blasphemous article and to use the same in the course curriculum. Replying to this notice, the Oxford University Press informed Shri Batra on September 12 that they have withdrawn the book with immediate effect and have also demanded from the University of Delhi to know how the portion from the book was reproduced in the University text without obtaining requisite permission from the publisher. It means the Delhi University circulated the text without seeking requisite permission from the original publisher.
The controversy over the Ramayana characters had not stopped the Delhi University from introducing another similar insulting book Human Rights Gender and Environment in the BA Programme of Foundation Course, Sociology. This book also contains impugned outrageous remarks about the Hindu religion, religious texts and particularly the Rigveda and Atharva Veda. Shri Batra has served another legal notice to Vice Chancellor of Delhi University demanding unconditional apology from the Hindu community for writing, publishing, prescribing and circulating the book in the university on September 11. Apart from demanding apology he also demanded withdrawal of the impugned paragraph from the book within 15 days.
This book under chapter 15 at page no. 209 with the title Women and Laws in India, section 1, Relationship between laws and women, says: “In India, religious texts and political treatises also did not accord the same legal status to women. The Rigveda regards the birth of daughter as a curse. It also equates a woman to a dog, cow, and a ‘shudra’. A woman is considered bereft of intelligence. The Atharva Veda regards marriage as necessary for producing offspring, i.e. sons only and women are considered as property.”