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‘Not shocked or surprised,’ says Arundhati Roy after TN university withdraws her book from syllabus

  • Published at 10:53 pm November 12th, 2020
Indian novelist Arundhati Roy poses for photos on stage at an interaction, organized as part of the Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography, held at the Midas Centre in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Walking with the Comrades, a book based on Roy’s visit to Maoist camps, was part of the university’s syllabus from 2017

The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli city on Wednesday decided to withdraw a book authored by Arundhati Roy from its syllabus following a complaint from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, reported The Hindu. 

The author said she was “not in least bit shocked or surprised by the decision”.

Roy’s Walking with the Comrades, a book based on her visit to Maoist camps, was part of the university’s syllabus from 2017.

“A committee comprising academic deans and board of studies members had considered the complaint and decided to withdraw the book as it may be inappropriate to teach a controversial book for students,” Vice Chancellor K Pitchumani told The Indian Express. “We have replaced it with M Krishnan’s My Native Land: Essays on Nature.”

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Dakshin Tamil Nadu Joint Secretary C Vignesh filed a complaint with the university authorities accusing the book of “openly supporting the killing fields and riots by the anti-national Maoists”, according to The Hindu. 

He also threatened to launch protests and bring the matter to the central government’s notice if there was a delay in the decision.

“It is highly regrettable that this book has been in the syllabus for the past three years,” the ABVP wrote in the complaint letter, according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) mouthpiece Organiser. “All these years Maoists thoughts and ideologies have been taught to the young students.”

Roy, meanwhile, said in a statement that it was her duty to write the book but not fight for its place in a university’s curriculum. The author added that she had no idea that her book was a part of the curriculum, but was happy that it had been taught for several years. She also said that she was neither surprised nor shocked by the decision.

On Thursday, SG Suryah, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu, claimed that the withdrawal was a “big win” for the RSS-affiliated student body.

Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi criticised the university’s move. “Governance and politics deciding what art and what literature students should study will destroy the diversity of a society,” she tweeted.

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