Mahasweta Devi’s short story ‘Draupadi’ was removed from the syllabus of the English Honors course of Delhi University. A campus official said on a particular day that this was done because of the description of rape in the story. It was on this day that Vice-Chancellor P.C. Joshi used his emergency powers to approve the syllabus change of four subjects in total.
According to a university source, the VC rarely used his emergency powers and bypassed the executive council. Usually, the executive council was the one to take the final decision on controversial syllabus changes. However, in this matter, the authorities said that they did not want any ‘dissent’. A university media release defended the charges at length. It also suggested that widespread criticism would hit the university gates from all sides. The media release explained the real reason behind the removal of the story. It said that the university believes that its syllabuses should contain material “which do not hurt the sentiments of any individual”. Although in this matter, it did not name any particular text.
One of the members of the oversight committee who recommended the changes talked to the Telegraph. He said everything on one condition that no one should reveal hi/her name. He/she said that Draupadi portrays a tribal woman’s struggle against oppression. The VC removed it from the syllabus because it contains the description of a rape.
Three dissenting members of the 130-membered academic council issued a statement. It said, “To use hurt sentiments as an excuse to delete texts is a blatant attempt to impose thought control of the dominant and privileged social groups”. Rajesh Kumar, Biswajit Mohanty, and Mithuraaj Dhusiya together said this.
Now comes the question, what is the theme of the story Draupadi? Draupadi is about Dophi Mehjan. She is a Santhal woman who, along with her husband, murders rich landlords. Then they grab their wells which are the main sources of water in their village. While doing this on a daily basis, she is once captured by an officer. He asked his men to rape her. Afterwards, she was asked to cover up. She replied that there was not any man there that she had to be ashamed of.
15 academic members protested against the syllabus changes. They said that Draupadi has been a part of the syllabus of Delhi University since 1999 “owing to its seminal academic value”. They highlighted the fact that the story was in the University Grants Commission’s “Model Syllabus 2019” from BA (Hons) in the subject English. What the University found responsible to hurt the sentiments in print has stirred emotions on stage and motivated in real life.