Outrage broke out among a section of netizens as news of the advertisement for a research fellowship on Manusmriti did the rounds? The Institution making this offering? Unfortunately, the once prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU)! BHU’s department of ‘Dharmashastra and Mimansa has put out an advertisement for a research fellowship on ‘Applicabilety of Manusmriti in Indian Society’ (sic). The selected candidate will get Rs 25,380 per month as stipend.
What is the Manusmriti?
Manusmriti, also called as Manav Dharma Shashtra, is an ancient Sanskrit law text supposed to have been composed in the early centuries of the first millennium. The text remains contested and reviled for its brazen endorsement of the caste system and women’s subjugation.
When asked if the fellowship amounts to endorsing the text, the department head Shankar Kumar Mishra told the media that since the Vedic tradition and rishis and munis have already endorsed it so there is no question of separately endorsing it. Mishra also disagreed that the law treatise sanctions caste and secondary status for women.
“A single word has multiple meanings. The word Hari can mean Lord Vishnu, monkey, frog or elephant. It depends on how you interpret it. It’s the same with these text. No religious work asks you to lie or behave badly. They all say help the weak, indulge in charity, take care of your family and so on,” he said.
Notably, Dr Br Ambedkar, who is known as the architect of India’s constitution, had burned Manusmriti in 1927 at a conference organised in Mahad, Maharashtra.
A resolution passed at the time read,
“Taking into consideration, the remarks in the Manusmriti and such other books which are most vulgar and which most flagrantly violate the human rights, this meeting condemns them emphatically and as an expression of that condemnation resolves to burn them.”
– Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol 17
Every year Ambedkarite groups mark this event by celebrating Manusmriti Dahan Divas on 25 December.
21st Centory Irony
“Applications are invited for the post of project fellow in the salary/stipend/fellowship/
The move has been critised on social media. “In new #India you are paid to study the “applicability of the Manusmriti on Indian society”! And then they try to appropriate Ambedkar….” said G Arunima, author and JNU professor.
“So now public universities are spending money to study the applicability of #ManuSmriti in Indian society. Hey Ram!” said a user.