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Controversy Erupts as Gita Course Introduced at DU College

A controversy  has erupted at Delhi University’s Ramanujan College over a refresher certificate course on the Bhagavad Gita, with some teachers alleging that the email announcing the course referred to it as mandatory and the administration stating that, while attendance was encouraged, no penal action would be taken for absence.

Teachers reported they got an email on December 18 requesting “mandatory attendance” for a two-hour daily refresher certificate course on the Bhagavad Gita from December 22 to January 9.

“It has been decided that all the newly recruited teaching staff in the last one year must register and attend the programme. It is compulsory for them to attend in the offline mode. Rest of the teaching staff, it is also compulsory, but they can take a call on whether they would like to attend online or offline,” said the email, seen by HT.

The email further elaborated that the course was in line with the setting up of the Indian Knowledge Centre in the college.

Some teachers objected to this. “I am a practising Hindu but there are people from other communities too and they should not be forced to attend. Further, contractual staff have to leave two-hours later as they are all afraid of the consequences,” said a teacher at the college, requesting anonymity.

Jigar Champaklal Inamdar, Chairman of the college’s governing board, brushed aside the allegations.

“On December 22, some teachers said that they might not be able to attend so we told them that it was okay. We have encouraged teachers to attend it, however, it is okay if they do not attend it too,” he said.

According to Inamdar, the objective of the course was to “impart the teachings and understand the relevance of the Gita.” He went on to say that the two-hour seminars would be focused on understanding the text and would include conversation and question-and-answer sessions.

Some instructors said that on December 22, they got an email from the official college email ID, signed by the principal, stating that 37 professors had not enrolled for the course.

“It has been observed that the following teachers have not registered for the certificate course on “Bhagawad Gita” neither in the online or offline mode. All are once again requested to register for the same,” said the email, with an attachment listing the professors and assistant professors who had not registered for the course.

The dispute widened after this second email.

“We have no problem with the course, but it should not be mandatory. Further, it is holiday season and college is off so many teachers are travelling during the days of the workshop. There is no point saying that it is not mandatory now… After reading such a threatening mail, even the remaining teachers paid the fees and registered for it,” said a second teacher, requesting anonymity.

According to the college website, “Bharatam,” or the newly formed Centre for Learning, Illumination, and Innovation, will hold the 20-day “Srimad Bhagavad Gita” course.

“Rooted in the essence of Bharatiya Gyan Parampara, the course endeavours to delve into each adhyaya [chapter] of the Bhagavad Gita, unravelling its philosophical intricacies and timeless teachings. Through a meticulous examination of the verses, the participants will embark on a deep exploration of the spiritual wisdom encapsulated in this revered scripture.” The course fees is ₹950.

The Democratic Teachers’ Front, a teachers’ union, condemned the action in a statement.  “It is not against academic principles to critically study Srimad Bhagavad Gita or any other text. Making it mandatory and holding participants captive, however, suggests propagation of uncritical thinking and sectarian beliefs,” the statement said.

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