The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has demanded that the University Grants Commission (UGC) withdraw its directive to universities to hold lectures on ancient Indian democracy as it amounts to “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. By issuing this letter, it has shown that it is not an autonomous agency which is wedded to the ideals of modern education, but that it is becoming a hand-maiden of the Hindutva brigade,” said a press statement issued by AIDWA, which is the women’s wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The UGC has urged universities and colleges to hold lectures on November 26, observed as Constitution Day, on the theme of “India: the mother of democracy”. It has also provided a list of themes that such lectures should explore, which include the concept of “ideal king” (rajarsi or seer king) according to Kautilya and Bhagwad Gita, concept of kingship vis-a-vis democracy, Harappa as the pioneering architect of the democratic system, khap panchayats and their “democratic traditions”, among others.
The AIDWA has condemned this as an attempt “to sell the idea of Vedic democracy as an ideal political system” and legitimise illegal and conservative social institutions” like the Khap Panchayats.
It has said that it was ironical that the UGC chose to mark the Constitution Day in a manner that “fundamentally ignores the rights of women to decent and dignified life.”
It has urged all members of universities to oppose attempts that will “alter the character of UGC and make it an instrument of conservative Hindutva politics” and has urged the UGC to exercise its constitutionally mandated role of promoting modern education that is based on the Constitutional values.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury called the UGC letter “reprehensible” and a “throwback to oppressive rule of medieval monarchy” in a Twitter post. In reference to themes such as “an ideal king” proposed by the UGC, Mr. Yechury pointed out that “democracy signifies separation of political authority from the myth of divine sanction to rule invoked by Kings”.