Mahasweta Devi’s work offends sentiments

OCTOBER 21, 2016
Following is the text of a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Central University of Haryana, sent by some academics protesting the attacks on Dr Snehsata Manav and Dr Manoj Kumar regarding the students’ production of the play ‘Draupadi’:
To the Vice Chancellor,
Central University of Haryana
Dear Vice Chancellor:
We write in support of Dr. Snehsata Manav and Dr. Manoj Kumar of the Department of English and Foreign Languages who have recently come under attack for their sponsorship of a student production on your campus of the play “Draupadi” based on a story by Mahasweta Devi who, as you know, is universally recognized as a towering figure in contemporary Indian literature. Her writings, translated into most Indian languages, have highlighted the struggles of oppressed and marginalized women and men. Her story “Draupadi”, whose dramatized version has been highly acclaimed and performed all over India, deals with the sensitive but enormously important question of the ethics of deploying the armed forces in dealing with civil disturbances within the country. This question, along with specific instances of rapes committed by army personnel in different parts of India, continues to be debated in the Indian public media and has engaged the attention of political leaders as well as the courts.
We strongly believe that it is both unjust and unwise to accuse intellectually responsible teachers of hurting the sentiments of some sections of opinion. The recent demise of Mahasweta Devi was a perfect occasion to engage university students in a serious discussion on why some of the greatest writers and artists of India have been concerned about the excesses of state violence carried out at the behest of those in power, no matter what their party or ideology.
We hope you will convey our views to those who have accused Dr. Manav and Dr. Kumar of being hurtful and unpatriotic. The university campus needs to be fostered as a place where difficult questions can be debated in a spirit of intellectual openness and without fear of censure.
Sincerely,
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, New York
Akeel Bilgrami, Stanley Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York
Gauri Viswanathan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York
Partha Chatterjee, Professor of anthropology, Columbia University, New York
Romila Thapar, Professor Emeritus in History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ramachandra Guha, author, Bengaluru
Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
Sumanta Banerjee, author, Hyderabad
Prabhat Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Samik Bandyopadhyay, Tagore National Fellow, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Sobhanlal Dattagupta, Former S. N. Banerjee Professor of Political Science, University of Calcutta
Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Lakshmi Subramanian, Professor of History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Nivedita Menon, Professor of Political Theory, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
B. Ananthakrishnan, Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad
Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Nirmalya Mukherjee, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delhi
Janaki Nair, Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Manabi Majumdar, Professor of Political Science, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Neeladri Bhattacharya, Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Moinak Biswas, Professor of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Udaya Kumar, Professor of English, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Aditya Nigam, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing societies, Delhi
Dwaipayan Bhattacharya, Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Sudipto Chatterjee, Professor of Cultural Studies, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Aniket Alam, Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad
Anand Teltumbde, Goa Institute of Management, Goa
P. Sanal Mohan, Associate Professor, School of Social sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam
Kiran Kesavamurthy, Assistance Professor of Cultural Studies, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Garga Chatterjee, Assistant Professor Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Pralay Majumdar, Assistant Professor of Biology, Presidency University, Kolkata
Trina Banerjee, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Baidik Bhattacharya, Assistat Professor of English, University of Delhi
Maidul Islam, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Anup Dhar, Associate Professor, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi

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