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Syllabus changes: 130 English teachers write to Delhi University dept head

Around 130 English teachers from multiple Delhi University colleges have written to the Head of the Department, asking for an emergency General Body Meeting (GBM) on the issue of the “arbitrary modification” of the English syllabus, The Indian Express has learnt.

DU’s Oversight Committee (OC) had come under criticism after they removed two women Dalit authors, Bama and Sukhirtharani, as well renowned author Mahasweta Devi’s short story, Draupadi, from the fifth semester English syllabus.

“We, the undersigned teachers of English Literature in the University of Delhi, request you to call an emergency General Body Meeting of English teachers (in the department and the constituent colleges of DU) on the following issues: arbitrary modification of English department’s 5th semester syllabi by the Oversight Committee without any recommendation from the English Department GBM, the duly constituted GBM-approved syllabus subcommittees, or the duly consulted subject expert/s,” the teachers from several prominent colleges, including Miranda House, Lady Shri Ram, Ramjas and Hansraj, wrote to HoD Raj Kumar on September 13.

They also said the GBM should be held over the “inordinate and academically unacceptable delay by the University of Delhi in approving the 6th semester syllabi of English Department”.

“As you are aware, these are very important issues having garnered attention in both the media and the public sphere in the past few weeks. The highlighted matters will have a serious impact on pedagogical aspects in the classroom, affecting many thousands of teachers and students involved in the teaching-learning process of literatures in English as a discipline,” they wrote.

“Thus it is essential to discuss these issues through the platform of the General Body Meeting and express ourselves collectively to safeguard academic rigour, intellectual honesty and commitment to our students. We, therefore, request you to have an emergency GBM within the minimum time required to call a GBM on these issues,” they said.

Kumar told The Indian Express: “I will definitely call the GBM but I need to consult my colleagues in the department first. So, it’s not possible to say right now when it will be called.”

Sources said the same was communicated by Kumar to the teachers via an email dated September 14.

DU authorities have backed the decision of the OC, with Registrar Vikas Gupta issuing a statement calling the syllabus “inclusive”. On why Draupadi – the story of Dopdi Mejhen, a Santhal woman gang-raped in police custody – was removed, he had said, “Just see the kind of language that is used in it. We have some culture and ethics. (In the story) Indian military is shown in a very poor light. Students should not hate them based on such stories.”

Earlier, 108 DU teachers had issued a statement criticising the decision, and around 1,100 renowned persons, including authors, actors and academicians, had petitioned the President and the V-C demanding that the axed authors be reinstated.

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