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Sita & Draupadi were first feminists, before world knew concept, says JNU V-C Pandit at DU event

Speaking at a three-day international seminar to mark Delhi University centenary, Santishree D. Pandit also said history needs to be ‘her’ story now.

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New Delhi: “Who could be a greater feminist than Draupadi for what she said to her husbands in the Mahabharata? Or Sita, who was the first single mother? Draupadi and Sita were the first feminists, even before the world knew the concept,” said Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Santishree D. Pandit at Delhi University Friday.

Pandit was speaking at a three-day international seminar, titled ‘Revisiting Ideas of India from Swaraj to New India’, being organised as part of the varsity’s centenary celebrations.

The VC also spoke on a range of issues while talking about cultural nationalism — from forgotten revolutionaries of the Indian freedom movement to Mahatma Gandhi, from the Chola dynasty to the Mughals. She quoted lines from Sangam literature as well.

Pandit said India was not bound by its Constitution alone, but also by a “cultural civilisation” that predates the freedom movement.

“Reducing India to a civic nation bound by a Constitution disregards its history, ancient heritage, culture and civilisation. I would place India as a civilisation state. There are only two civilisation states… They are India and China. However, when China speaks about cultural nationalism, it is secular, but when India does, it becomes communal,” she added.

Home Minister Amit Shah and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were also present at the opening ceremony of the event Thursday. Other eminent speakers who are slated to attend the event are Lavanya Vemsani of US-based Shawnee State University, and Amit Dholakia of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.

‘History needs to be her story now’

Referring to historian Edward Hallett Carr’s dictum “Facts are sacred, their interpretation may vary”, Pandit said, “Unfortunately, independent India and the university I belong to overturned this dictum and made it — interpretations are sacred, facts can vary. This is very dangerous.”

She further said, “The current narrative has made us imagine our history with self-loathing, self-hatred and of a land conquered by the defeated. One period is excessively glorified and I, who come from the South, feel even worse. The longest ruling dynasty in this country has been that of the Cholas. Any mention of the great kings of the Cholas? Any roads set up in Delhi by the name of the great rulers?”

She also said that history in its current form is ‘his’ story, but now, it needs to be ‘her’ story.

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