Opposition, writers and scholars were outraged after textbook chapters on prominent figures such as Basavanna and Periyar were removed or severely curtailed by a review committee headed by writer Rohit Chakrathirtha
In the latest twist to the textbook controversy raging in Karnataka, education minister BC Nagesh on Tuesday said there would be no revisions to a chapter on religion of the History textbook of Pre-University Course (PUC)-II, Indian Express reported.
Nagesh on Tuesday told IE.com that several objections were raised to the PUC-II History textbook on a chapter called ‘Hosa Dharmagala Udaya’.
“However, we will be retaining the same content as per the previous committee. There is no committee that will be setup to review the textbooks for PUC-II as of now,” Nagesh said.
This, as the education department, following public outrage over the controversial textbook review committee headed by Rohith Chakrathirtha and the revisions undertaken by the committee for social science and Kannada textbooks, announced that it would be reprinting lessons on Ambedkar and Basavanna – the content recommended by the Barguru Ramachandrappa committee constituted during the tenure of the previous Congress government, as per Indian Express.
Let’s take a look back at the row and what happened:
The BJP-led government had appointed noted right-wing writer Rohit Chakrathirtha to head a 15-member committee examining books from classes I to X.
This, after complaints that some lessons in the textbooks of Class VI and VIII in Karnataka schools were hurting sentiments of the Brahmin community.
The committee then partially revised social science textbooks from Class 6 to 10 and Kannada language textbooks from Class 1 to 10.
After that, all hell broke loose.
Objections were raised over the replacement of a chapter on Bhagat Singh with an essay on a speech by RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in the revised Kannada textbook for Class 10. S
There were also allegations about the omission of a chapter on Narayana Guru and the works of other prominent figures such as Lingayat social reformer Basavanna and Dravidian movement pioneer Periyar being
With regard to Basavanna, there were allegations of erroneous content on 12th century social reformer and certain factual errors in the textbooks, including accusations of disrespecting ‘Raashtra Kavi’ (national poet) Kuvempu and distortion of the state anthem penned by him.
What did Opposition say?
The Opposition Congress demanded the sacking of textbook review committee chief Chakratirtha for ‘saffronising ‘school textbooks by including Hedgewar’s speech, and omitting chapters on key figures like freedom fighters, social reformers, and writings of noted literary figures.
Ex-chief minister Siddaramaiah demanded Bommai stop printing the textbooks and discuss the changes with experts before going ahead.
As per India Today, state Congress chief DK Shivakumar (DKS) in a letter to Bommai urged him to drop the new syllabus.
“I request you to cancel the current syllabus, take back the new textbooks and continue to use the old ones,” DKS said.
He added that many writers too have expressed disappointment.
How did the writers get involved?
Noted Kannada writers and thinker Devanuru Mahadeva and scholar G Ramakrishna revoked permission of their work being printed in the textbooks, as a form of protest.
Devanuru Mahadeva, who has actively campaigned for the inclusion of Kannada as the primary language of instruction in schools and colleges, called the entire revision exercise an ‘undemocratic’ way of reviewing textbooks.
He has revoked the permission to use his work ‘Yedege Bidda Akshara’ in the textbook.
Mahadeva was quoted as saying that that those who had taken the decision to drop the chapters from the textbooks did not have any idea of Kannada literature or culture.
He also took objection to the committee chairperson Rohith Chakrathirtha saying that he was unaware of the caste of the authors. Devanuru was quoted telling The Quint, “Caste is a reality in our country, and when it is not identified, 90 per cent of authors from the same caste are featured as a result. This means that diverse voices disappear, which does not make for a good democracy.”
Dr G Ramakrishna, a retired professor of English who served at the Dr BR Ambedkar College in Mahad and the National College in Basavangudi, also revoked the permission of using his chapter on Bhagat Singh in the textbook.
Dr Ramakrishna, said, “It is an intellectual travesty that children are being fed poison through textbooks.”
How did government respond?
Stating he had expected the controversy to end after Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai expressed willingness for further review of textbooks if there are any objectionable content or mistakes, Nagesh accused opponents of trying to ‘politicise the issue’ despite clarifications promising to restore the chapter on Basavanna to its earlier form and reintroduction of a line in a chapter on Ambedkar that was omitted.
Bommai on Friday disbanded the textbook review committee as its designated work was completed and said that the government is open for further revision if there are any objectionable content.
Nagesh on Tuesday struck a more conciliatory tone, saying hthe government will place before the people the contents of the original textbook and those revised by the erstwhile Congress and the present BJP regimes.
He also reiterated that the government was open for further revision if there is any objectionable content in the freshly revised textbooks, after taking into account the collective opinion expressed by the people. “We will place in public domain the contents of original textbook that was prepared by Mudambadithaya headed committee, also what was omitted and what was introduced into the textbooks during Siddaramaiah’s tenure (as CM), and what has been included during our (BJP) tenure,” Nagesh said.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Bommai, he said in a democracy, people are king, and if they feel that there are mistakes in the revised textbooks, the government is with an open mind to further review it, as the chief minister has already stated.
Experts concerned about the impact on children
Experts, meanwhile, have expressed concern about the effect of the row on students who still do not have access to the freshly revised books.
Guru Kashinath of the National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) told News9,”The (revision) committee was appointed the previous year. One of the important aspects is that the minister had assured that the committee’s report will be discussed and then textbooks will be revised, in a process of democracy. It is unheard of that seven people are told to revise and then you straightaway go on to print the textbooks. It’s completely unheard of because you have to go through several levels before revising textbooks. The Baraguru Ramachandrappa committee had several sub-committees and hundreds of people participating. But seven people with one kind of political background, one thinking and one background is harmful. It’s an unwise step by the government when the priority should have been to make sure that students have resources, and teachers have support, enrollment is done. There is a huge dropout and no one is thinking about it.”
PE Chidanand, state secretary of the Voice of Parents Association, told News9: “Teachers are confused as the books have not reached them. The CM’s statement on the re-revision of textbooks has created confusion about the books possibly being recalled. The discussions around what is needed and not can be done for the textbooks for the next academic year. Why are children made to suffer?”
With inputs from agencies
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