Arundhati Roy’s book ‘Walking With The Comrades’ has been withdrawn from the syllabus of Tamil Nadu’s Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli after a petition by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which termed the work as “anti-national”.
The book, which is based on Arundhati Roy’s visits to Maoist camps, was part of the university’s syllabus since 2017 for students in the third semester of the MA English Literature course.
“A committee comprising academic deans and board of studies members had considered the complaint and decided to withdraw the book as it may be inappropriate to teach a controversial book for students. We have replaced it with M Krishnan’s My Native Land: Essays on Nature,” vice-chancellor K Pitchumani was quoted as saying in Indian Express.
In a letter to the university, the ABVP said, “It is saddening that this book has been in the syllabus for the last three years. For the past three years, Naxal and Maoist ideas were directly imposed on the students. The teachers also taught anti-national ideas as lessons to students. Since the book kindles hatred towards the nation in the minds of students, many students were subjected to stress.”
ABVP’s state organising secretary L Muthuramalingam told The News Minute, “It was brought to our attention last week. We gave a petition to the university to remove the book from the list. We felt that it portrays the armed forces in a bad light, alleging that they are the reason for all the problems faced by the tribal people. We also felt that the book sows anti-national thoughts into the minds of the students and, hence, sought a ban on the book from the university syllabus.”
DMK MP Kanimozhi questioned the withdrawal of the book. She wrote on Twitter, “When ruling power and politics decide what is art, literature and what students should study, a society’s pluralism will be destroyed.”
ஆட்சியதிகாரமும், அரசியலும் எது கலை, எது இலக்கியம் எதை மாணவர்கள் படிக்க வேண்டும் என்று முடிவு செய்வது ஒரு சமுதாயத்தின் பன்முகத்தன்மையை அழித்து விடும். pic.twitter.com/vjKKybSSAR
— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) November 12, 2020
On their website, the book’s publishers Penguin Random House, describe ‘Walking With The Comrades’ as “fiercely reported work of nonfiction” on “little-known rebel movement in India”.
“In this fiercely reported work of nonfiction, internationally renowned author Arundhati Roy draws on her unprecedented access to a little-known rebel movement in India to pen a work full of earth-shattering revelations,” the publishers said.
“Deep in the forests, under the pretence of battling Maoist guerillas, the Indian government is waging a vicious total war against its own citizens — a war undocumented by a weak domestic press and fostered by corporations eager to exploit the rare minerals buried in tribal lands.
“Roy takes readers to the unseen front lines of this ongoing battle, chronicling her months spent living with the rebel guerillas in the forests. In documenting their local struggles, Roy addresses the much larger question of whether global capitalism will tolerate any societies existing outside of its colossal control,” they added.