Monday, October 04, 2010

An open letter to Rajan Welukar

Dr Rajan Welukar, they claim you are the vice chancellor. But I think that is paying you too much of a compliment. You are just a first rate coward! So you decide to ban Rohinton Mistry’s Such a long journey because some thugs decided that Mistry offended Bal Thackeray! Brilliant stuff! Kudos for caving in to the demands of the thugs!

Co incidentally, I am reading a beautiful book right now- Reading Lolita in Tehran a book by Azar Nafisi. It is a sheer co-incidence that it was only two days ago that I read a chapter where she talks about how she dealt with a situation where books were being banned left, right and centre in Iran in the 80s as they were accused of propagating ‘Western’ values, values which were decadent enough to corrupt the youth. She later talks about how she puts the novel, the Great Gatsby on trial in her class because of few opinionated students in her class who want the book banned.

“Was it necessary to put this book on trial? I was somewhat taken aback. Did he want me to throw the book aside without so much as a word in its defense?” (An excerpt)

I am not asking you to conduct a trial. But have you even read the book? I am sure you haven’t. So why do you really want to ban a book? How does it help to ban a book? Why didn’t the students get any chance to give their opinion? Do you think they are not capable of having an opinion or do they really not matter at all in the given scheme of things? Am I asking for too much? Did you even ask the teachers what they thought of the book? I am asking this because you seem to have effected this ban by bypassing the academic council. You only chose to hear one puny section of the student (?!) group and decided to act. It is appalling that a vice chancellor of a university which is 150 years old chooses to act in such a cowardly fashion. It is not just cowardly, it is also chauvinistic. By not taking into account the opinion of any other the groups associated with education per se, you have exhibited totalitarian attitude.

And that was Iran where it happened. India I think despite all its problems is still a democracy. I am not shocked by Shiv Sena’s acts. They have acted according to what is expected of them. But what message does a university send when it caves down to empty threats like these?

It saddens me to see not a whiff of protest either from the student community or the teachers’ community. It reflects the sad talibanisation of our society, a society that is marred by fear and apathy.

So, what next? Which other group’s pathetic ego do you plan to appease next? What are you planning to do? Do you have a list of dos and donts that a novel should follow in order to be considered to be taught in your esteemed university.

I used to be a student of this university once. I feel very sad when I look at it now, in its current state. Mumbai University is dead and I mourn its demise.

I end my piece by again quoting these lines from Reading Lolita in Tehran. Such a long journey was this and a lot more!

A good novel is one that shows the complexity of individuals, and creates enough space for all these characters to have a voice; in this way a novel is called democratic-not that it advocates democracy but that by nature it is so.

Shobha S V

P.S. Oh I just came across this. Some hope!