(Rama -- at centre, in blue, with his wife Sita -- receives Hanuman in a scene from the Ramayana/Smithsonian)

Under pressure from Hindu hardliners, a prestigious university has dropped a scholarly text on the Ramayana epic from its history syllabus, in the latest sign of conservatives’ deep influence over a globalizing India’s cultural battles.

In October, Delhi University removed the essay by eminent academic A.K. Ramanujan from the reading list after Hindu nationalist students vandalized the history department and lodged a complaint that the text’s bawdy references offended beliefs about the life of hero-god Rama.

Liberal thinkers are furious at what they see as another capitulation by a secular institution to pressure from hardliners — in a tweet last week author Salman Rushdie called it “academic censorship.”

The furor bears some resemblance to U.S. tussles over the teaching of evolutionary theory and highlights the resurgence of India’s religious right at a time when voters are turning away from a center-left Congress government weakened by corruption scandals.