Nandini Sundar Responds to the BJP-backed NDTF’s Protests Against Her Book
"...they have started a campaign to harass me for my human rights work in Chhattisgarh"
The recent spate of attacks on Dr Nandini Sundar’s work as an activist and an academic began with the baseless allegations of muder of a tribal man, Shamnath Baghel, against her and Dr. Archana Prasad last year in November 2016, and now one sees a renewed attack on her work as an academic as one reads about the BJP-backed NDTF’s (National Democratic Teachers’ Front) protest against the inclusion of chapters from her very important book The Burning Forest in Delhi University’s MA Sociology syllabus.
The Indian Cultural Forum stands in solidarity with her work as an activist and an academic. Read her responses below.
Dr. Sundar, what do you have to say about the NDTF’s claim that the book’s title India’s War in Bastar is misleading and that it presents India in a bad light?
These are terms used by the NDTF's own preferred channels like Times Now, and by its own party, the BJP, so why are they complaining? For instance, after the killing of 76 CRPF men in 2010, the headlines were: 'Government outraged over Maoist massacre – BJP wants fight to the finish’ (Hindustan Times), ‘War between India and the Maoists’ (Times Now).
How reliable are selection committees and academic councils when it comes to approving and finalising syllabi? Did the AC members read the book or the chapters proposed for inclusion in the syllabi before rejecting it?
The AC members who objected have admitted that they have not read the book, as is usually the case with people wanting a book or film banned or burnt. They are also not social scientists. It was the same lot who objected to the inclusion of AK Ramanujan's classic essay 300 Ramayanas.
Personally, I don't think having courses passed by the AC is a sensible system – it delays courses, and gives people with no knowledge of a subject undue power. Once it has been passed by the department staff council or relevant faculty (of social sciences in this case), the readings should be approved.
What do you think is the real motive behind this rejection?
One reason is their intolerance towards critical thought in general. Second, they have started a campaign to harass me for my human rights work in Chhattisgarh – the false murder charges, the constant defamation, and now this … its systematic.
Read more about the false allegations against her work here.
Nandini Sundar worked towards the abolition of the notorious Salwa Judum in 2011. Her recent publications include, The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar (Juggernaut Press, 2016); an edited volume, The Scheduled Tribes and their India (OUP, 2016), and Civil Wars in South Asia: State, Sovereignty, Development, (Sage, 2014, co-edited with Aparna Sundar). She was awarded the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences - Social Anthropology (2010), and the Ester Boserup Prize for Development Research (2016).
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