– Aditi Sharma

On February 4, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati asked the Prime Minister to put a ban on the text recommended for the Delhi University History students, which allegedly contains objectionable references to the characters in Ramayana. Mayawati made a written complaint to the Prime Minister, after Akhil Bhartiya Vidhayarthi Parishad (ABVP), and BJP students wing protested in Delhi and Lucknow, alleging the text was a part of a book compiled by Prime Minister’s daughter Upinder Singh.

According to Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, ABVP, Indraprastha VHP, Bajrang Dal and other socio-religious organizations this is degrading to our Hindu culture. A number of groups have organised protests and have raised objections to the inclusion of an essay by (late) A. K. Ramanujan, titled “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation�. The said essay is one of the readings for the Delhi University concurrent course on Ancient Indian Culture in the B. A. (Honours) programme, which has been offered in several Colleges from July 2006 onwards.

In the essay, Ramanujan illustrates and analyses the great dynamism and variety in what he describes as ‘tellings’ of the story of Rama within India and across the world. It has, however, some references to Hanuman which the ABVP says are offensive. “This is a deliberate attempt to hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community. If the article is taught, students will be expected to reproduce it in exams as well. In our education system, unless you write what is taught in class, you do not get marks. Hindu students will be forced to write something they do not believe in,� said Niharika Sharma, the ABVP’s Delhi General Secretary. A memorandum has been sent to Deepak Pental asking for the deletion of that text from the course.

The Prime Minister’s Office, however, said there had been a misunderstanding as Upinder Singh’s name had been found in one copy of the text. “I have absolutely nothing to do with this text. The contentious article is not written by me. Nor is there any book of mine, which contains the article. I fail to understand why I am being linked to the text,� Upinder Singh said.

Some students are of the opinion that the entire issue is baseless and aims to promote party politics. “India is a country of diverse cultures. These epics were in fact oral and were later converted into written forms as per the various cultures. And so (that explains) the differences.� said Shreya, a History student from Stephens.

“One cannot teach by imposing. One cannot questions different faiths and other versions. The crux is the same�, said Arushi, Vice President, Gargi College. History Department teachers in LSR, too, spoke on the same lines, saying that they defend the issue and “The article should certainly be included in the curriculum The aim of the course in question is to teach University students to be able to analyze a variety of source material academically, analytically. One should not get sentimental on issues like these�

As the famous saying goes…“History is past politics� and Politics is “present history�. It is after all a game of select few who decide the paradigm of the events that happen in a certain country. India is a free country where it is our democratic right to express freely. Whether this debate will uphold that freedom and integrity is still a question mark.