Bhagat Singh, Hedgewar, Lankesh – how Kannada school texts became an ‘ideological battleground’


New Delhi: Changes to textbooks in Karnataka sparked a new controversy around the supposed ideological bias of the school curriculum, with the state government being accused of making the curriculum “less progressive”.

The Karnataka government has been accused to remove a chapter on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh from the class 10 Kannada language textbook, with questions also raised about the removal of works by progressive thinkers like the Kannada poet P. Lankesh, the founder-editor of ‘Lankesh Patrike’, Sara Aboobacker, a prominent Kannada Muslim writer, and AN Murthy Rao.

While the head of the Karnataka Textbooks Review Committee, which introduced the changes to the textbook, defended the decision, he denied allegations about Bhagat Singh.

Examination committee chairman Rohith Chakrathirtha said teachers and students demanded the changes because “the current curriculum fostered a certain ideology”.

“Whatever changes we made to the program, they were made with the quality of the works in mind, not the ideology of the work or the writers,” he added.

“Since it’s literature, we have to teach students everything from poetry and prose to plays and different styles of writing. All changes in the program have been made with exactly that in mind,” he told ThePrint.

Critics of these changes include renowned Kannada writer K. Marulasiddappa, who said the changes are “without commitment to progressive ideology”. He said it was a “crass way of promoting ideology among young people”.

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Chapters on Bhagat Singh, Hedgewar

The controversy first erupted after the All India Democratic Students Organization (AIDSO) – the student organization of the Socialist Unity Center of India (Communist) – alleged last week that a chapter on Bhagat Singh was removed from the Class 10 Kannada textbook and a chapter on RSS founder KB Hedgewar was added in its place.

The textbook review committee clarified On Tuesday that the chapter on Bhagat Singh “was not deleted”, but the issue snowballed into controversy, with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal citing the allegations to blame the BJP of “insult to the martyrs”.

Kerala Education Minister V. Sivankutty also searched Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh in post on Twitter“Unlike some other states, Kerala will ensure the presence of Bhagat Singh’s life in our program.”

Rohith Chakrathirtha said there was no truth to these allegations. “This is unnecessary polemic. Previously, the book only talked about Bhagat Singh’s childhood and how he spent the early days of his life. We have added information about his revolutionary days in the revised manual We didn’t remove portions of him, but we added others,” he added.

Asked about the chapter on Hedgewar, he claimed that the scope of this particular lesson is limited to one of his speeches and not based on his life as an RSS ideologue. “We have included a speech in which he says that instead of worshiping human beings, you should follow values ​​that will not change over time. This has nothing to do with his ideology,” he said. he declares.

He was also underline than Kannada poet P. Lankesh’s version of The beauty and the Beast will now be absent from Kannada textbooks issued to students in Class 10. Lankesh was the father of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, who is believed to have been murdered by Hindu radicals in 2017.

The Story of Kannada Author, Sara Aboobacker Yudhawhich reflects on the futility of war by attempting the bond between an elderly woman and an enemy soldier, was also removed from textbooks, as was that of Shivakotyacharya Sukumara Swamy Katheand Viaghra Kathe by AN Murthy Rao, who challenged the idea of ​​God in his literary work Devuru.

“If the committee had to make changes to the program, they should have made good changes. The current changes are without commitment to progressive ideology,” said Kannada author and former president of Karnataka Nataka Academy, K. Marulasiddappa.

“If they wanted to introduce new writers from outside Karnataka, they should have introduced Vivekananda, Premchand, Rabindra Nath Thakur… How is Hedgewar a writer? He is just an ideologue,” he added.

Asked why these works by prominent Kannada authors were removed from textbooks, Chakrathirtha said the curriculum was dominated by authors of a “particular ideology”.

“After 2014, a textbook committee headed by Baragur Ramchandrappa included works by writers of only one particular ideology and the government received complaints about this. That is why when the government changed in the state in 2019, a new textbook committee was formed to revise the curriculum again,” he said, adding that changes were made to all the textbooks for classes 1 to 10.

“We introduced a lot of good writers” works, which had been deleted earlier. For example, we added the work of Kuvempu (first Kannada writer to receive the Jnanpith Prize), who has worked extensively on children’s literature. We have added a poem which is his version of the Flute player.

‘Apart from that we have added the work of another’Rashtrakavi’ Mr. Govind Pai,” Chakrathirtha said.

(Editing by Amrtansh Arora)

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