I am the planet’s most lackadaisical blogger, but this made me angry enough to dash off a post NOW. The University of Mumbai has removed Rohinton Mistry‘s Such a Long Journey from its syllabus because of complaints that the book portrayed the Shiv Sena (a right-wing Indian political group) in a poor light. The originators of the complaint? The student wing of the Shiv Sena.
“Following complaints from some BA students about ‘anti-Shiv Sena passages’ in Rohinton Mistry’s 1990 Booker-nominated novel, Such A Long Journey, Aditya [grandson of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray] convened a meeting of the students wing of his party at Sena Bhavan […]
Copies of the novel were burnt and a 24-hour notice was given to vice chancellor Dr Rajan Welukar to drop the novel from the second year syllabus.
The very next day the university cravenly bowed down to this demand and issued notices to all colleges dropping the novel from the syllabus, regardless of the fact that it was mid-term, and papers for the first semester were being set.” (From Mumbai Mirror)
I don’t know where to begin. Mistry is one of the foremost authors of our generation, notable as much for his humanity as his writing, and to have his work held to ransom by a group of ill-informed, ill-opined thugs is as almost as maddening as the University’s decision to buckle. I don’t doubt for a minute that the concerned authorities were threatened and bullied into submission, but we are talking about a respected institution of learning here. From their site: “The University of Mumbai (known earlier as University of Bombay) is one of the oldest and premier Universities in India. It was established in 1857 […] and it is one amongst the first three Universities in India.” If they do not have the will or ability to resist, who does?
As a reader, as a writer, as a Mumbai-lover, as someone who respects the book and admires the author (who, incidentally, lives in a neighboring city), as someone who believes education is (or ought to be) fatal to bigotry, I am upset on more counts than I can keep track of. Damn. Just…damn.