Delhi University (DU) has been contemplating the removal of an elective course focused on the renowned scholar, Dr. BR Ambedkar, from its undergraduate philosophy program. This course has long been an integral part of the university's social sciences program, ensuring that students graduate with a comprehensive understanding of Ambedkar's contributions. However, a recent recommendation from the standing committee on academic matters has ignited a contentious debate within the Department of Philosophy at the University.
In response to the committee's proposal, the Department of Philosophy has strongly opposed the elimination of the elective course on Dr. Ambedkar's philosophy. They have expressed their concerns to Vice Chancellor Yogesh Singh, urging him to retain the course within the curriculum. On May 12, the department's postgraduate and undergraduate curriculum committee convened to deliberate on the request to delete the subject from the BA Programme (Philosophy). This proposition had been put forward for the first time on May 8.
The department's curriculum committee has firmly voiced its reservations about the removal of the course. They argue that Dr. Ambedkar is an indigenous thinker who embodies the social aspirations of the majority of people in the country. Moreover, they highlight the increasing research interest surrounding Ambedkar's philosophy. These factors have compelled the committee to vehemently oppose the recommendation put forth by the Standing Committee, which stems from the ongoing curriculum revision based on the National Education Policy 2020.
Contrary to the claims made by the committee, sources indicate that the request to remove the subject from the BA Programme (Philosophy) was initially proposed on May 8. Subsequently, on May 12, the postgraduate and undergraduate curriculum committee convened to evaluate this proposal. Balram Pani, the Chair of the Standing Committee and Dean of Colleges, refutes the committee's involvement in making this request. Instead, he suggests combining new and old courses while incorporating the philosophies of philosophers from diverse backgrounds.
During the meeting on May 8, Amitava Chakraborty, the dean of the faculty of arts, asserted that significant changes had been made to the existing philosophy courses. One proposed alteration was to establish connections between the topics covered in the course "Philosophy of B R Ambedkar" and those covered in courses focusing on other Indian philosophers, representing a range of perspectives and schools of thought. This revision aimed to grant students the freedom to select the philosopher they wish to study.
A philosophy professor, choosing to remain anonymous, commented on the situation, questioning the rationale behind offering supplemental articles on other thinkers under the new syllabus, considering that the "Philosophy of Ambedkar" is an elective and not mandatory for students.
In a potential concession to the philosophy department's opposition, a subcommittee formed by the Standing Committee suggested retaining the paper on Ambedkar's philosophy while introducing a few additional electives focusing on other thinkers. According to sources, the new curriculum will also include papers on other philosophical thinkers such as Swami Vivekananda, Periyar, and Mahatma Gandhi. These recommendations were presented to the Standing Committee on Tuesday and subsequently forwarded to the Academic Council for final approval.
The proposal to remove the Ambedkar philosophy course was rejected by the curriculum committee of the philosophy department due to Ambedkar's status as an indigenous thinker who represents the social aspirations of a majority of people in the country. The committee also acknowledged the growing body of research dedicated to Ambedkar's philosophy.
It is important to note that the curriculum has not been altered at this stage. The Academic Council, the highest authority responsible for academic matters, will have the ultimate decision-making power in this matter.
The Ambedkar philosophy course was introduced in 2015, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of Ambedkar's life, key writings, ideas, and study methods.