A petitioner railing against a “blasphemous” essay on the Ramayan in the Delhi University history curriculum is only to be expected. That the Supreme Court should demand a response from the university, however, is strange. The essay, Three Hundred Ramayanas by the much-respected scholar, A.K. Ramanujam, examines multiple narratives of the epic.
The essay does two things that cannot sit well with the Hindu right. First, it allows narrative space to people traditionally granted no voice; one Kannada narrative belongs to an untouchable musician, and in a Jain tale, Ravana is a noble man. Second, it exhibits precisely the sort of critical thinking that’s absent in history education today—the sort of thinking that would seek to question the “official” version of Indian history that the right wants so desperately to establish.