Karnataka school textbook row: Student groups talk about what's going wrong

A state-wide protest regarding the matter will also be organised, the involved student bodies shared. They are demanding for the old syllabus of the textbooks to be reinstated
Image of school textbooks for representation purpose only | (Pic:  Express)
Image of school textbooks for representation purpose only | (Pic: Express)

Protests are erupting in Karnataka as different student groups, politicians, writers and so on are voicing their displeasure over the changes made to Class X school textbooks. While some label these changes as “saffronisation” of school textbooks, others have called to question the qualification of the head of the textbook committee set up by the state government. The protests over the issue have also been carried out online on platforms like Twitter. 

Additionally, on May 31, Tuesday, student organisations are getting ready to take their protest to the next level as a state-wide protest is being called for apart from the one being organised in Bengaluru’s Freedom Park on the same day.

Students' Federation of India (SFI), All India Students' Federation (AISF), National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Karnataka Vidyarthi Sanghatane (KVS) are the organisations who have expressed their ire over the revision made to the textbooks, along with others. 

This comes in context with Karnataka’s Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh stating that there is no question of revising the textbooks again.  

Student organisations say...
“Instead of lessons on actual freedom fighters and thinkers, a lesson on Hedgewar (Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, Founder, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS) has been added. RSS did not have anything to do with our independence,” said Nagesh Kariappa, National Secretary of the National Student Union of India (NSUI), who belongs to Karnataka. “This is a very bad thing happening in Karnataka. This is RSS agenda. They are least bothered about the history, and are creating new history,” added Kariappa.

His sentiments were echoed by Kirthi Ganesh, the Karnataka State President of NSUI, who asked, “What is the message they are giving to the students?”

It may be recalled that, defending the inclusion of Hedgewar’s speech in the textbooks, BC Nagesh had stated that the lesson speaks of the importance of society and nation. 

Fault with the committee
The organisations have also shown their displeasure towards the committee appointed by the state government to revise the school textbooks. “It is a Brahminical selection, and the textbooks are being made Brahminical,” said Jyothi K, Karnataka State President of the All India Students' Federation (AISF). “Out of the ten people in the committee, nine are Brahmins. One of them has even criticised Karnataka in the past,” explained Nagesh Kariappa. “The head, Rohith Chakrathirtha, has bluffed about Hedgewar’s lesson being about patriotism, but it is not so,” added Kirthi Ganesh.

The Karnataka SSLC textbooks have been subjected to two revisions, due to which, there has been a delay in the overall supply of textbooks to schools. An essay on war by Sara Abubakar, Vyagragita by AN Murthy Rao, a retelling of Beauty and Beast by P Lankesh and a chapter on Bhagat Singh were the lessons in the first draft list of the revised textbooks. “A lesson named The Mother is an Indian Immortal by Chakravarty Sulibele has also been removed. Instead of that, they have added Hedgewar’s lesson How to be a True Man. After the protests, however, they re-added the chapter on Bhagat Singh in the second list as a recompensation, but Sulibele continues to be missing and Hedgewar has stayed,” Jyothi said.

“We want a progressive and scientific education. The RSS lesson might lead to the students having strong, divided ideologies. We want the nation to be united,” she added further. “The Home Office had at first denied the inclusion of Hedgewar’s lesson in the textbooks. But now it has become clear. And if the lesson is not removed, we will take the issue very seriously. We will lock the office of Minister BC Nagesh and call for our demands to be met,” said Kirthi Ganesh.

The organisations are chiefly demanding for the Chakrathirtha-led textbook revision committee to be abolished and the old syllabus be restored. “Everybody is shocked over this, and is involved in the demand for abolition,” said Kirthi. “The student organisations, progressive writers, philosophers, parents and all like-minded individuals have joined in with us,” Jyothi adds. “The protests are going on both online and physical,” clarified Nagesh Kariappa.

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