Following is the text of a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Central University of Haryana, sent by some academics protesting the attacks on Dr Snehsata Manav and Dr Manoj Kumar regarding the students’ production of the play ‘Draupadi’:
To the Vice Chancellor,
Central University of Haryana
Dear Vice Chancellor:
We write in support of Dr. Snehsata Manav and Dr. Manoj Kumar of the Department of English and Foreign Languages who have recently come under attack for their sponsorship of a student production on your campus of the play “Draupadi” based on a story by Mahasweta Devi who, as you know, is universally recognized as a towering figure in contemporary Indian literature. Her writings, translated into most Indian languages, have highlighted the struggles of oppressed and marginalized women and men. Her story “Draupadi”, whose dramatized version has been highly acclaimed and performed all over India, deals with the sensitive but enormously important question of the ethics of deploying the armed forces in dealing with civil disturbances within the country. This question, along with specific instances of rapes committed by army personnel in different parts of India, continues to be debated in the Indian public media and has engaged the attention of political leaders as well as the courts.
We strongly believe that it is both unjust and unwise to accuse intellectually responsible teachers of hurting the sentiments of some sections of opinion. The recent demise of Mahasweta Devi was a perfect occasion to engage university students in a serious discussion on why some of the greatest writers and artists of India have been concerned about the excesses of state violence carried out at the behest of those in power, no matter what their party or ideology.
We hope you will convey our views to those who have accused Dr. Manav and Dr. Kumar of being hurtful and unpatriotic. The university campus needs to be fostered as a place where difficult questions can be debated in a spirit of intellectual openness and without fear of censure.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, New York
Akeel Bilgrami, Stanley Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York
Gauri Viswanathan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York
Partha Chatterjee, Professor of anthropology, Columbia University, New York
Romila Thapar, Professor Emeritus in History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ramachandra Guha, author, Bengaluru