Karnataka: After writers, academics, religious leaders, and opposition parties objected to the government-appointed textbook revision committee’s revisions, which they claimed were an attempt to “saffronise” the curriculum by omitting works by social reformers like Narayana Guru and authors like P Lankesh, Karnataka’s Education Department last week ordered eight corrections in school textbooks. The administration had earlier disbanded the Rohith Chakratirtha-led textbook revising committee due to the demonstrations. Here is how the recent months have played out in terms of the textbook debate.
What is the textbook revision controversy all about?
A textbook revision committee was established by the BJP government in Karnataka last year after Hindu organisations and political parties complained that the state’s current textbooks contained offensive material about Brahmins, extolled Tipu Sultan, and downplayed the contributions of Mysore Wadiyar, among other things. The opposition has accused the government of promoting a right-wing, conservative, pro-Hindutva ideology while the government claimed that the revision was necessary to correct alleged distortions to textbooks that had been made under a previous committee led by the author Baragur Ramachandrappa during the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah.
One of the issues they brought up was the Kannada textbook’s decision to include a chapter on RSS founder K B Hedgewar. Additionally, chapters on social reformer Narayana Guru, freedom warrior Bhagat Singh, and works by progressive authors like Sara Aboobacker and P Lankesh have been omitted in favour of those by right-wing ideologues like Chakravarti Sulibele, Govinda Pai, and Bannanje Govindacharya, among others. The committee headed by Chakrathirtha was criticised for having “saffronized” the textbooks by including just a small number of authors from different communities.
Who is Rohith Chakrathirtha?
The Kannada and social science textbooks for Class 10 were due for revision, and Chakrathirtha served as the committee’s chairperson. Chakrathirtha is a novelist and a math teacher who comes from the Udupi coastal region. Chakrathirtha received criticism for his past social media posts during the current incident. He was charged in 2017 after posting a parody of the state anthem written by Kuvempu on Facebook. Numerous of his prior tweets about porn have also come to light online, leading writers, authors, and opposition parties to demand that action be taken against him.
As soon as the online version of the Class 10 Kannada and social science textbooks were uploaded on the website of the Karnataka Textbook Society, writers and authors pointed out that the chapter on Bhagat Singh and writings by Sara Aboobacker and P Lankesh was missing. Instead, the textbooks reprinted a speech by RSS founder KB Hedgewar.
The chapter on the Mysore maharajas will remain, according to the Education Department, while the chapter on Tipu Sultan, which formerly spanned six pages, will remain in its condensed one-page version.
The Karnataka Textbook Society will print these revisions separately and distribute a booklet containing them to every school in the state over the course of the following 10 to 15 days, according to the government.