Monday, October 11, 2010

Against Book Bans: An Open Letter to Rajan Welukar, VC, Mumbai U

Some of you may already be familiar with the sudden decision to drop Rohinton Mistry's wonderfully evocative novel Such a Long Journey by Mumbai University.  The decision was taken mid-way through the term and for no academic reason. It also appears to have been taken without any clear academic procedure.

Apparently, Aditya Thackeray - another budding thug leader of the Shiv Sena clan - is at the point of being anointed the youth leader of the party's student wing.  The novel, which dwells on the Sena's thuggish history of violence and intimidation in Mumbai, is obviously an easy target, allowing the goon-in-making to score family loyalty points thinly disguised as a pro-Mumbai rant.  It must be noted, in all fairness, that in keeping with the behind-the-screens tradition of the family, Aditya Thackeray has been noticeably silent and missing from this whole saga, although apparently the protests and book burnings have been carried out at his behest.

I believe it is time for responsible citizens then to stand up and protest. So this morning, I  emailed this letter to Mumbai University Rajan Welukar, protesting the ban and in the hope that an 18 year Thackerey may learn that perhaps violence may not work as a political tactic in the future. If you feel as strongly about establishing and maintaining a stable, democratic, free India, as I do, definitely drop a line to Mr. Welukar protesting his cowardly surrender to political thugs.  He may be emailed at:

Dear Mr. Welukar,

This is to strongly protest the unceremonious dropping of Rohinton Mistry's novel Such a Long Journey from the university curriculum.

Not only does such a decision cede to the power hungry fanatics who threaten our democracy and polity, it also smacks of cynical pandering on part of university officials who are apparently bending over backwards to help launch the political career of yet another unthinking, undeserving young thug whose only concern is perpetuating his familial power base rather than any national, state or even local community interest.

Regardless of Shiv Sena's thuggery, surely the university has a responsibility not only to instill academic discipline and intellectual rigour in its students as well as contributing to their formation as responsible citizens. This last is the key role of Humanities in higher education and banning books at behest of thugs - no matter how violent - is abdicating this responsibility entirely.


Sunny Singh