Chetan Bhagat’s inclusion in DU syllabus was arbitrary: Stakeholders

By Saket Suman

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Including bestselling author Chetan Bhagat’s novel “Five Point Someone” in Delhi University’s syllabus was “arbitrary” and did not follow the usual procedure of consultation among the concerned committees, stakeholders say of the decision that has now been put on hold.

Teachers have alleged that “vested interests” are at play and the credentials of the University’s English department are being diluted. A review committee has now been formed to take a call on whether Bhagat’s book can be included in the syllabus from the next academic session.

“It was a very arbitrary decision. Whatever modifications and changes are made in the syllabus of Delhi University, it is done through widespread consultations and discussion. But the decision to include this book was made almost secretly and only a handful of people were involved in the process,” Prashanta Chakravarty, a senior professor at the English department, told IANS.

“Delhi University’s English department is the premier seat of English learning in the country and over the past few years, we have seen constant attempts to dilute it. There are vested interests and a lot of things like selling of books, favour to some authors and publishers… Now that it has been put on hold until the next academic session, it will allow for a larger discussion on the subject,” Chakravarty added.

The minutes of the meeting at which the review panel was formed show that the teachers felt there was “there is arbitrariness in framing and modification of the syllabus. It has also come to light that the department has been in practice of favouring some authors and publishers, even by going out of the way of normal practice and justification”.

The meeting also took into account the considerable negative reporting by national dailies on the inclusion of the novel and the hostile reception it garnered on the social media.

Another English professor, Ira Raja, said it was a “thoughtless decision” to include “Five Point Someone” in the syllabus.

“I do not think Chetan Bhagat is a great writer and while I believe that even popular literature should be a part of the syllabus, his book is certainly undeserving. We also have to see the context in which his books are read and there is a lot of good work by other contemporary, popular writers as well. He is such a polaris(ing) figure, wearing his political opinions on his sleeves and exhibiting them on television channels. I do not think he deserves to be in the syllabus,” Raja told IANS.

Just days ago, Bhagat, in an interview to IANS, had referred to the inclusion of his book in the syllabus as “a huge honour”.

“It is obviously a huge honor, and validates my work’s value even in academia, something elitists have tried to deny me for long. Dozens of PhD’s have already happened on my books, and now it is great that DU will add my books to their popular fiction course. I guess it shows you the biases that exist, and the mentality that wants to bring people down. It also shows that many who claim to be experts in literature have no idea about what literature is meant to be,” Bhagat had said.

The proposal to include Bhagat’s book was originally made by the university’s Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) committee. Some other authors in the section are Louisa M. Alcott, Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at saket.s@ians.in)

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