The Delhi University has decided to remove the short story 'Draupadi' by Bengali writer and activist Mahasweta Devi. Dalit women authors Bama and Sukirtharini were also removed from the BA (Hons) English course syllabus.
15 Academic Council (AC) members have submitted a dissent note against the Oversight Committee's overreach on courses and their functioning. The Oversight Committee had earlier suggested changes in the syllabus.
Mithuraaj Dhusiya, an AC member, said that the council strongly protests against the overreach of the Oversight Committee that arbitrarily changed texts in the new undergraduate Learning Outcomes-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) syllabi of the fifth semester, bypassing statutory bodies like Faculties, Committee of Courses and Standing Committee.
He said that there is no logic behind removing the story about a tribal woman (Draupadi) and two Dalit authors and added that they were "arbitrarily removed". He also added that it is shocking to note that this Oversight Committee did not have any experts from the concerned departments whose syllabus was changed.
Mahasweta Devi has been vocal about her support for marginalised and Adivasi communities. She often has women at the centre of the narrative in her stories. 'Draupadi' follows the same style.
The short story is about Dopdi Mehjen, a tribal woman from the Santhal tribe of West Bengal. She is accused of being a Naxal and picked up by the police. Police officers gangrape her to extract information, after which they ask her to cover up. Draupadi rips her clothes off as a symbol of her defiance and walks towards the officer.
Mahasweta Devi has drawn inspiration from Mahabharata and retell 'the vastraharan episode' for what it is - an act of bodily violation by men. Dopdi Mehjen is seen as a symbol of subaltern subjugation. The writer insinuates that women are the first to be attacked in every battle, and Dopdi's refusal to partake in the shame is a way of challenging the monopoly.