New Delhi— In a surprising move, the renowned institution has opted to displace the iconic figure of Mahatma Gandhi and replace him with the polarizing figure of Veer Savarkar in its undergraduate political science course.
With the approval of two new study centers—one dedicated to the Partition and the other to "Hindu studies"—and the inclusion of a paper on Savarkar's life and ideas, Delhi University has embarked on a path that has triggered concerns of political manipulation, ideological bias, and the erosion of historical perspectives.
As the echoes of dissent grow louder, the ramifications of this academic decision reverberate through the halls of education, illuminating the complex interplay between politics, education, and the quest for an inclusive and comprehensive understanding of India's past.
Senior academics expressed concern that the new study centers will produce and legitimize "unfounded" and "toxic" content to advance the BJP's divisive goals and accused the institution of taking a "saffron turn."
On Friday, May 26th, the Centre for Hindu Studies and the Centre for Independence and Partition Studies received approval.
The academic council also agreed that sixth-semester political science honors undergraduate students would be required to read a paper on Savarkar's life and ideas.
The paper on Mahatma Gandhi's life and ideas, which was a component of the previous three-year course, was moved by the council to the seventh semester of the current undergraduate program.
Numerous alternative choices are now available, and as a result, many students may graduate after three years with a BA degree after studying Savarkar but not Gandhi.
Many members of the academic council had urged that Gandhi be taught in the fourth semester, before Savarkar, but vice-chancellor Yogesh Singh had rejected the proposal, according to academic council member Chandra Mohan Negi.
Negi claimed that Savarkar had never been covered in a college course before. He is referred to as "Veer Savarkar" in the title of the new paper.
An MA in Hindu Studies will be available from the Centre for Hindu Studies. This course, which presents the caste system as inclusive and seeks to portray Buddhism and Sikhism as branches of Hinduism, has been requested by the NDA government from central universities. The first institution to offer this course was Banaras Hindu University in 2021.
The academic council has stated that the Centre for Independence and Partition Studies will focus on liberation movement leaders and events that have not yet been included in textbook histories.
According to a university press release, "oral history" will also capture the voices of individuals from that time period who experienced this catastrophe.
The Sangh Parivar, which was not heavily involved in the independence movement, claims that the official history overstates the significance of Congress and its leaders in the freedom struggle.
The center will research the causes and effects of the Partition, according to the press release.
Abha Dev Habib, a former executive council member, claimed that given the NDA government's track record on issues of communal harmony, one can only be wary of the motivations driving the push for studying the Partition.
If the suggestion had come from a government that upholds secular principles, one could have felt more secure. However, the NDA government has a dismal track record in this area, she added. "A center for partition studies is expected to collect data and analyze literature in a scientific manner. It’s a big question whether DU will do this."
She added, "There is every possibility that this center will produce toxic material to further the communal agenda. It will legitimize unfounded stories under the guise of research findings."
Recently, Delhi University’s syllabus panel recommended dropping the word "Hindu" from the titles of two chapters on B.R. Ambedkar in an elective paper that includes content critical of the Hindu social order and its treatment of women.