Revision of School Textbooks Stokes a Political Storm in Karnataka
Political exchanges over khaki shorts
As the controversy over the revision of school textbooks in Karnataka continues to escalate, the Karnataka Congress unit on Thursday staged a protest. Led by D K Shivakumar, President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly and several other lawmakers, the protest took place in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue at Vidhana Soudha.
The protesting Congress members accused the BJP of 'saffronisation' of textbooks and being 'puppets' in the hands of the RSS and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
The protest was one in a series of protests across the state after the textbook revision committee reportedly included a speech by the RSS Founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in the class X Kannada language textbook.
According to several reports, the committee first set up by the Karnataka government in 2020 and headed by writer Rohit Chakrathirtha also got rid of chapters on several social reformers, including Bhagat Singh, Swami Vivekananda, Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan and founder of the Dravidian movement Periyar in the social sciences textbooks of classes VI to X.
While the BJP-led government has already begun the process of printing the textbooks, several lawyers, activists and writers have expressed their objection to the revised content of the textbooks.
The biggest setback to the BJP however is upsetting the Lingayat seers, who wrote a letter to the Karnataka CM, demanding the rectification of the wrongful representation of their founder Basavanna.
The Lingayats have a significant influence over voting in the state and as Karnataka heads to the polls, the BJP led government was quick to jump into damage control mode with Education Minister B C Nagesh visiting the pontiff of the Taralabalu mutt, Panditaradhya Shivacharya Swami and assuring him that the letter would be taken seriously and that the government would take a call soon. The pontiff said that there would be a state-wide agitation by the Lingayat seers if the government fails to take action.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Congress has also said that they will not stop protests until the printing of the textbooks is withdrawn. The government, on the other hand, maintains that chapters on Bhagat Singh and Swami Vivekananda haven't been removed. However, the extent of the changes remains unknown as the content of the textbooks is not public yet. Protesting against the revisions, several writers also withdrew their consent for their works to be included in the textbooks.
The government has now disbanded the textbook revision committee stating that their duty had been completed and announced that they would be open to making further revisions if there is objectionable content.
Over the last week, the controversy escalated further when members of the National Students Union of India, the Congress' Youth Wing entered the premises of Education Minister B C Nagesh's house and started burning 'khaki shorts', the uniform of the RSS.
Several Congress workers across the state soon followed suit and started burning khaki shorts, accusing the BJP of bowing down to the RSS in all its decisions. In a counter-protest, RSS workers across the state have now started collecting shorts from houses and sending them as parcels to the Congress headquarters to be handed over to opposition leader Siddaramaiah.