The University Grants Commission (UGC) wants universities and colleges across the country to conduct lecturers on ‘India: The Mother of Democracy’ on Constitution Day, November 26 to push the idea that democracy was prevalent in the region since the time of the Vedas.
Left-leaning women’s organisation All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has demanded the withdrawal of a letter from the University Grants Commission instructing all central universities to hold lectures on ancient Indian democracy, alleging that the proposed themes glorified anti-women ancient texts and traditions. In a statement, the AIDWA said the letter dated November 15 was sent to 45 central and deemed-to-be universities each to hold lectures on “India: Mother of Democracy” to celebrate Constitution Day on November 26.
The letter, it said, directs all universities to hold lectures on the ancient origins of Indian democracy apart from reading the preamble and the chapter on fundamental duties. “The University Grants Commission (UGC) appears to have circulated a concept note on this subject which identifies 15 themes. Though the note has not been made public, several media reports and statements of the UGC chairperson suggest that the themes include the glorification of anti-women ancient texts and traditions. The themes of the lectures include khap panchayats, feudal and dictatorial monarchies and anti-women customs that follow the Manusmriti. It is also ironical that the UGC has asked the universities to celebrate Constitution Day in a manner that fundamentally ignores the rights of women to a decent and dignified life,” it said.
the UGC has provided 15 themes on which universities can hold lectures, among which are the “concept of the ‘ideal king (rajarsi or seer king or philosopher king)’ according to Kautilya as well as Bhagavad Gita, India’s ‘loktantra’ (self-governance), Harappans as the pioneering architect of the democratic system in the world, as well as khap panchayats and their ‘democratic traditions’”.
the other topics include “Existence of Ganarajya in Kalinga During Asoka’s Invasion”, “Governing Principles of Democracy in Ancient Sanskrit Scriptures based on Sruti, Smiti Itihasa and Mahakavya Texts”, “Kingly Democracies of Ancient India: Examining Democratic Trends in Sanskrit Literature”, “The Tradition of Local Self-Government In Ancient And Medieval Tamilnadu”, “Democratic Thoughts and Traditions as Reflected in Arthasastra”, and “Janatantra as perceived through the coins of Gana-Janapadas (BCE 400 – 300 ACE)”.
The UGC and ICHR’s push comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day address this year called India “the mother of democracy.”
UGC chairperson M. Jagadesh Kumar wrote to over 45 central universities and 45 deemed-to-be universities, asking them to organise special lectures from November 15 to 30, apart from November 26. He has also written to all governors – who are chancellors of state universities – to “encourage” such lectures.
The women’s association also contended that while the UGC asks people to read the preamble, it promotes ideas and texts that have laid the foundation of oppression of women since ancient times. “The UGC has been attempting to push courses of Vedic culture and alter the academic syllabus to suit the patriarchal Hindutva brigade. By issuing this letter, it has shown that it is not an autonomous agency which is wedded to the ideals of modern education, rather it is becoming a handmaiden of the Hindutva brigade. It is directly following the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been selling the idea of Vedic democracy as an ideal political system,” the letter stated.