A state-run university in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu removed author Arundhati Roy’s book on Maoists, Walking with the Comrades, from its MA syllabus, after members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) raised objections on Thursday.
ABVP had claimed that the book glorifies anti-national elements, while opposition parties Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have opposed the decision of taking the book off the syllabus.
The book chronicles the journey of the author’s visit to Maoist-dominated regions in Chhattisgarh and how they operate from inside the jungles. The book had been introduced at the third year for the 2017-18 batch for the MA English Literature students at the Manonmaniam Sudaranar University-affiliated colleges based in Tirunelveli.
The book has been replaced by author M Krishna’s My Native Land, Essays on Nature. The Padma Shri Award-winning writer was a renowned naturalist and a pioneer in Indian wildlife photography.
“The book was included in the syllabus in 2017. It was only a week ago that it was brought to our notice that Ms Roy had glorified Maoists. So we formed a committee to discuss the issue and the panel recommended its withdrawal,” K Pitchumani, who was appointed Vice-Chancellor last year, told The Hindu.
According to a report by The Week, Pitchumani said: “Last week we got a written complaint from the ABVP. Subsequently, there were lot of other representations. We received complaints from our syndicate members as well.”
Reacting to the news, Roy told Scroll.in that she was “not in least bit shocked or surprised by the decision”.
“When I heard of the Manomaniam Sundaranar University’s decision to remove my book Walking With the Comrades from its curriculum following threats and pressure from the ABVP— oddly enough I was more happy than sad because I had no idea that it was in the curriculum in the first place. I am glad it has been taught for several years. I am not in the least bit shocked or surprised that it has been removed from the syllabus now. It was my duty as a writer to write it. It is not my duty to fight for its place on a university curriculum. That is for others to do or not do. Either way it has been widely read and as we know bans and purges do not prevent writers from being read,” she said.
“This narrow, shallow, insecure attitude towards literature displayed by our current regime is not just detrimental to its critics, it is detrimental to millions of its own supporters. It will limit and stunt our collective intellectual capacity as a society and a country that is striving for a place of respect and dignity in the world,” added Roy.
Other works of Roy, a political-activist involved in human rights and environmental causes, include The God of Small Things (a Man Booker Prize winner of 1997), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017).