‘Curriculum politicised for electoral gains’, says Karnataka textbook committee head on Savarkar row


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New Delhi: In the last week, social media has been rife with debates over the alleged “glorification” of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in Kannada textbooks in Karnataka’s revised school curriculum. Rohit Chakrathirtha, head of the Karnataka textbook revision committee, told ThePrint, “We have not “glorified” V.D. Savarkar in our textbooks, people are unnecessarily politicising the issue about his inclusion.”

He said the curriculum issue has been politicised in Karnataka from day one because the state is going for elections next year. Prior to this, the same textbook committee, headed by Chakrathirtha was accused of removing a chapter on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and progressive authors like Gauri Lankesh and adding portions on RSS ideologue K.B. Hedgewar.

Savarkar, who is immensely important for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological wing RSS, has been a point of contention in the state in the past as well when there was violence over the removal of his flex banners in Shivamogga.

A chapter in the Kannada language textbook for Class 8 has been replaced with excerpts from author K.T.Gatti’s travelogue consisting of his visit to the cell in Andaman where Savarkar was lodged.

Portions of the chapter roughly translated from Kannada read, “Savarkar was kept in that dark room, high up on the back wall inside the room, where neither the sky nor the light was visible. However, from somewhere the bulbul birds were flying and coming into the cell. Sitting on their wing, Savarkar used to visit the soil of the motherland every day.”

Also Read: ‘Ideologically poles apart’ – Savarkar on Gandhi museum’s special magazine issue triggers row

The ‘literary decoration’

According to a report in The Hindu, many teachers have objected to the paragraph saying it has been mentioned in the book as though it was a “literal fact” and Savarkar actually sat on the bird.

In a detailed written response released to the media, Chakrathirtha scaid, “One wonders if the intellectual level of our intellectuals has really sunk to such a low level. Savarkar, who was unable to see what was happening in the world around him, was sitting on a bird’s wing and touching the distant homeland, which is a kind of literary decoration. This can be called Utprekshalankara.”

“Any connoisseur will know that in the sentence Savarkar used to go to the motherland sitting on the wings of a bird, it does not mean that Savarkar used to sit on the wings of a bird himself. But, our so-called intellectuals have found a problem in this sentence, it means that there is something wrong with their intellectuality,” his response read.

Speaking to ThePrint, he said that the people should understand the literary interpretation of the sentence. “The author is trying to say that Savarkar, through his emotions and feelings, would get transported to his motherland. I do not see how we are glorifying him by adding a portion like that,” he asked.

“Whatever the textbook committee has been doing has been politicised from day one. Certain sections of people are being incited against us because of the people who need an agenda for the elections. They are trying to make curriculum changes a political issue,” he added.

He also said that whoever is creating the uproar is “misleading the public” by misinterpreting the meaning of the text.

(Edited by Siddarth Muralidharan)

Also Read: Savarkar never offered a clear definition of Project Hindutva. A new book shows that again

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