Around 250 Indian intellectuals and academicians have signed an open letter, citing alarm over a Rajya Sabha question on “Pakistani author’s book prescribed at educational institutes in the country”.
On March 16, the University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to all Central Universities, demanding that they provide details on the matter.
This comes around a year after AMU chose to delete the teachings of two Islamic scholars from their syllabus of the Department of Islamic Studies, with university authorities noting that the decision was reached after certain complaints were received that the teaching of the authors were “objectionable”. Egyptian author and Islamic scholar Sayyid Qutb and Pakistani novelist Abul A’lal al-Maududi had their teachings erased.
“Whether the government has taken cognizance of the fact that a book by a Pakistani author is being taught at Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia, or any other educational institution in the country, and the language is derogatory to Indian citizens and also supports terrorism; if so, the details thereof,” the universities were asked last week.
They were also asked, “Will the government consider scrutinising the contents of textbooks authored by the said Pakistani author and taking action against those responsible?”
“For leaving the book unnamed allows the question to be read as suggesting that any book by any Pakistani author that might possibly be read as ‘derogatory to Indian citizens’ and supporting terrorism’ must not be taught in any Indian university,” said the statement signed by teachers and scholars affiliated with Higher Education Institutes.
The subject line of the UGC letter is “which converts the Parliament question into an excuse to collect information on and suspect all books by Pakistani writers discussed in Indian colleges.”
The statement went on to say that education should teach students to engage with whatever looks to be “insulting” or “derogatory” and reply to it verbally rather than refusing to hear it or, worse, considering it a criminal to be met with threats of censorship and violence.