Members of various political parties, including the DMK, and social organisations, under the umbrella of Coordination Committee for Protection of Educational Rights (CCPER), have demanded the restoration of writer Arundhati Roy’s book, Walking with the Comrades, in the M.A. English syllabus at the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU).
They submitted a memorandum to Vice-Chancellor K. Pituchumani, on Tuesday, in this regard.
Following objection from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and “others”, the MSU recently withdrew the book, based on Ms. Roy’s visit to Maoist hideouts, and replaced it with a few essays from naturalist M. Krishnan’s My Native Land: Essays on Nature.
While receiving the representation from members of CCPER, Dr. Pitchumani said an academician, previously associated with the university, had alerted that the inclusion of the book in the syllabus, three years ago, for M.A. English, had figured in a discussion at the National Security Council meeting, held recently.
Subsequently, the ABVP submitted its representation, demanding withdrawal of the book from the syllabus. A committee set up to examine the issue, too, felt that contents of the book were “controversial”, and, hence, it was withdrawn, Dr. Pitchumani said.
To this, CPI(M) district secretary K.G. Bhaskaran, who was accompanied by Tirunelveli MLA A.L.S. Lakshmanan and DMK’s Tirunelveli city district secretary Abdul Wahab, replied that the Board of Studies, which should have decided on the fate of the book, was kept in the dark, while the MSU acted hastily, following a letter from an organisation.
“The book, published by a leading publisher, has not been banned by the Central or the State governments. Instead of getting approval from the Board of Studies for withdrawing a book, the MSU acted hurriedly and autocratically based on the recommendation of a smaller committee,” he said.
When the Vice-Chancellor said the book was about a “struggle” and that its withdrawal was being politicised, Mr. Baskaran wondered if the MSU would remove the Independence struggle too from its syllabi.
“It is the MSU that has politicised the issue… Ours is only a reaction to an action erroneously taken by the MSU, based on a letter from the ABVP. If the MSU acts on a letter from a single organisation, we, comprising 15 movements, now, demand the re-induction of Walking with the Comrades in the syllabus, again. Else, we will stage a series of protests against this injustice,” Mr. Bhaskaran said.
Dr. Pitchumani said he would consider their appeal.
M.S. John Mohamed of MDMK, K.G. Kalaikannan of Aathi Thamizhar Paeravai, K.S. Rasool Maideen of Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, M. Suresh of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, T. Purushothaman of the May 17 Movement and members of few more organisations were present.