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More than 250 scholars and academics from India have signed an open letter expressing concern about a question raised in the Rajya Sabha regarding “the use of a book by a Pakistani author in educational institutions in the country.”

On March 16, the University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to all Central Universities, asking for information on this matter.

This comes after Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) decided to remove teachings of two Islamic scholars from the syllabus of the Department of Islamic Studies. The decision was made in response to complaints that the teachings of the authors were “objectionable.” The two scholars whose teachings were removed are Egyptian author and Islamic scholar Sayyid Qutb and Pakistani author Abul A’lal al-Maududi.

Last week, universities were asked whether the government is aware of a book by a Pakistani author being taught at institutions such as Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia, and if the language in the book is derogatory to Indian citizens and supports terrorism. They were also asked if the government would consider examining the contents of textbooks written by the Pakistani author and taking action against those responsible.

In a statement signed by teachers and scholars affiliated with Higher Education Institutes, it was expressed that the question raised by the UGC suggests that any book by a Pakistani author that could be interpreted as “derogatory to Indian citizens” and “supporting terrorism” should not be taught in any Indian university. The letter from the UGC was criticized for turning a parliamentary question into a means to gather information and cast suspicion on all books by Pakistani writers discussed in Indian universities.

The statement further argued that education should teach students to engage with material that may seem “insulting” or “derogatory” and respond with verbal argumentation, rather than refusing to hear it or, worse, considering it a crime to be met with threats of censorship and violence.

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