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RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar enters school text

The Class X Kannada language textbook prescribed for the 2022-23 academic year has also reduced Tipu Sultan to a footnote
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
File photo

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 18.05.22, 03:23 AM

Class X students in BJP-ruled Karnataka government’s school board will from the upcoming academic session study content related to RSS founder and Hindu Rashtra proponent Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, sparking allegations of saffronisation of education

The Class X Kannada language textbook prescribed for the 2022-23 academic year has also reduced Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile ruler of Mysore often portrayed as a villain by the Right wing, to a footnote and dropped the works of some progressive writers.

The All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) alleged that the chapter on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has been dropped, but the textbook review committee that has proposed the changes denied this.

The Class X Kannada textbook prescribed for 2022-23 has a chapter titled “Nijavaada Aadarsha Purusha Yaaragabeku? (Who should be the ideal role model?)”, which deals with a speech by Hedgewar.

The AIDSO accused the Karnataka Textbook Society, a state government outfit, of including a “speech made by a man who turned his back on the freedom movement”.

Hedgewar had once said: “Till one person who considers India his motherland and calls himself a Hindu is alive, India remains a Hindu Rashtra.”

Karnataka primary and secondary education minister B.C. Nagesh said the content on Hedgewar would not be removed.

“There is no question of removing Hedgewar’s speech from the book, which has already gone for printing,” he told reporters.

The chairperson of the textbook review committee, Rohith Chakrathirtha, said the chapter on Hedgewar dealt with a speech in which he told the youth not to idolise anyone, but rather believe in an ideology of their choice.

“But we have not included anything about Hedgewar, nor is the chapter asking students to follow his ideology. It only highlights Hedgewar’s words against idolising individuals,” Chakrathirtha told a news channel on Tuesday.

Asked about the rationale behind including such a chapter in a school textbook, Chakrathirtha said: “Every student in Karnataka should read this. Because they have so many role models like cinema actors.”

He pointed out that communists, too, were against idolising any individual. “Even communists ensure they don’t include images of individuals in their banners during elections.”

Chakrathirtha, however, acknowledged that the two paragraphs that formed the chapter on 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan, popularly known as the Tiger of Mysore, had been trimmed to just two lines with no images. “If I have to include a lesson on Tipu, then I have to provide a full book on the Chalukyas,” he said. The Chalukya empire ruled large parts of today’s southern India from the 7th to the 8th century.

Chakrathirtha countered the AIDSO’s allegation that the lesson on Bhagat Singh had been dropped. “We have never said we have fully removed the lesson on Bhagat Singh. In the previous textbook there was only basic information on Bhagat Singh. We have expanded that. But some people have been spreading rumours that we have dropped Bhagat Singh from the textbook,” he said.

Among the content removed from the textbook, according to the AIDSO, are a lesson against racism titled “Mruga Mattu Sundari (Beast and the Beauty)” by P. Lankesh, father of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, Sara Abubackar’s “Yuddha (War)” and A.N. Murthy Rao’s “Vyagrageethe (Song about anxiety)”.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Hedgewar did not deserve to be in a school textbook. “What did the RSS do to find a mention in history? Were they part of the freedom struggle? They didn’t even go to jail or get hanged (by the British). It was all Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru,” he told reporters.

Ataullah Punjalkatte, state president of the Campus Front of India, the students’ wing of the Muslim Right-wing Popular Front of India, questioned the inclusion of Hedgewar in the textbook. “He is the man who opposed the Tricolour as our national flag and wanted the saffron flag instead,” Punjalkatte said.

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