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Posted at: Oct 7, 2016, 12:51 AM; last updated: Oct 7, 2016, 12:51 AM (IST)

Row over ‘Draupadi’: 70 scholars from UK, Europe support M’garh professors

Row over ‘Draupadi’: 70 scholars from UK, Europe support M’garh professors
ABVP activists protest against the staging of a play based on Mahasweta Devi’s short story Draupadi. file photo

Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6

International academia have condemned the Central University of Haryana (CUH), Mahendragarh, for clamping down on a play based on Mahasweta Devi’s short story Draupadi.

The “harassment” of Profs Snehsata Manav and Manoj Kumar, who organised the play on the campus, has irked them.

The university’s English and Foreign Languages Department had, on September 21, organised the play as a tribute to Jnanpith awardee Mahasweta Devi who passed away on July 28. The play depicted soldiers as raping a woman and committing other atrocities.

More than 70 UK- and Europe-based scholars with origins in South Asia have written to CUH Vice-Chancellor RC Kuhar.

Prominent among those who have signed the letter are Prof Pritam Singh from Oxford Brookes University; Rashmi Varma from the University of Warwick, Kalpana Wilson from Birkbeck University, Subir Sinha of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London; Prof Dibyesh Anand from the University of Westminster, London; Sundari Anitha of the University of Lincoln; Prof Gautam Appa from the London School of Economics and Political Science; and Murad Banaji from the University of Middlesex.

“The attack and threats of charges of sedition against those involved in the performance is instigated by the BJP-affiliated student group ABVP, which has falsely and maliciously spread the view that the play is anti-national and represented an attack on Indian soldiers,” the letter reads.

“We stand in solidarity with the courageous faculty members and students who performed the play and strongly oppose the sedition charges being brought on them. The university should be a place for free expression of ideas, and thoughts; it should create space for dialogue and debate, and even disagreement,” the professors said in the letter.

The VC continues to be on medical leave ever since the play courted controversy.

Registrar Ram Dutt said a six-member inquiry committee had conducted one meeting. “The panel is likely to convene more meetings before it submits a report.”

He denied any pressure on the university.

“This is not for the first time that ABVP activists have tried to vitiate the academic atmosphere of the university. Earlier, they had disrupted a candle march organised in the memory of Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula,” said Prof Snehsata.

Prof Kumar said ABVP had labelled him a “Naxalite”.

Parmod Shashtri, state ABVP president, alleged the CUH has become a den of “anti-national” activities. He claimed pro-Pakistan slogans were raised on the campus during a cricket World Cup match last year.

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