Textbook Wars Are On In Karnataka As BJP Govt Appointed Committee Reviews Congress Era Distortions

by Swarajya Staff - Oct 6, 2021 06:40 PM +05:30 IST
Textbook Wars Are On In Karnataka As BJP Govt Appointed Committee Reviews Congress Era Distortions(Representative image)
  • The 15 member panel that was set up last month to review the Karnataka state syllabus textbooks is to submit a report after examining ‘contentious content’ in Social Science, languages, and Environmental Science state syllabus textbooks from classes I to X.

    Earlier, in 2017, ​​a team of experts appointed by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education had found 170 errors in the textbooks of the state syllabus for classes I to X.

In September, the Karnataka Department of Primary and Secondary Education set up a review committee headed by author and member of the Karnataka Development Authority, Rohit Chakrathirtha. A vocal proponent of Hindutva, Mr Chakrathitra’s appointment has been a cause of great contention between the BJP and the Congress in the state.

The 15 member panel is to submit a report after examining ‘contentious content’ in Social Science, languages, and Environmental Science state syllabus textbooks from classes I to X. These textbooks were earlier subject to several additions, deletions, and deviations made by the textbook revision committee under the supervision of the writer Baraguru Ramachandrappa. Mr Ramachandrappa was appointed by the Siddaramiah led INC government in 2015.

With the stated objective of preventing ‘saffronisation’ of education, he introduced several changes to the state syllabus. BJP had termed the changes as attempts to promote the ‘Ahinda and Leftist’ agendas amongst school children in the state.

The issue once again came to the forefront when a controversy erupted in February this year after the Brahmin Development Board raised objections over the contents of the grade VI Social Science textbook. Claims in the chapter titled ‘Birth of New Religions' such as ritualistic discrimination based on the Vedas led to the emergence of religions such as Jainism and Buddhism, drew the ire of the community.

Many more such errors and factual inaccuracies plague the textbooks of Karnataka. These can be classified into four broad categories.

First, instances of critique of certain aspects of Hinduism and the deletion of others.

These include the branding of idol worship (Murti Puja) as a social evil; drought being blamed upon the yagnas performed by Brahmins during which it is claimed many animals, ghee and milk get wasted; the dropping of any references to the Hindu Philosopher Sri Vyasatirtha; removal of titles such as Rishi and Maharishi while addressing the likes of Valmiki and Veda Vasya; misinterpretations of the Upanishads to portray Vedic and post-Vedic societies as discriminative; the complete removal of the shloka ‘Asatoma sadgamaya' from the textbooks and the replacement pictures of old temples with those of churches and mosques.

Second, historical inaccuracies and distortions.

The grade VI Social Science textbook claims that the twelfth century Hindu philosopher Bassavanna rejected Upanayana and instead underwent the Linga Deeksha ceremony. However, at the same time, there exists a chapter on the philosopher-saint in the grade VII Kannada textbook which claims that Bassavanna received Upanayana when he was about 7 to 8 years of age and later underwent the Linga Deeksha ceremony when he was about 16 years old. The contradiction is apparent.

Similarly, the grade X Social Science textbook contains within it a distorted rendition of Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago address at the Parliament of World Religions. The book claims that he stated all religions are tolerant, while the truth remains that the Swami expressly spoke about the quality of universal tolerance in Hinduism and how Hinduism accepts all religions to be true.

Third, disregard and erasure concerning aspects of the Kannada culture and Karnataka’s history.

Grade VI Social Science textbook makes the unverified claim that the movement for the unification of Karnataka (formation of the Karnataka state) drew inspiration from the Vanga Bhanga movement in 1905 (protests against the partition of Bengal).

Ironically, in a chapter pertaining to the city of Bengaluru, there is no abstraction of the city’s founder Kempe Gowda; detailed paragraphs on the doyens of Kannada literature such as Kuvempu, DVG, Masti Kailasam, and many others were reduced to mere sentences in the textbooks. Moreover, descriptions pertaining to the Karnataka state anthem - ‘Bharata Jananiya Tanujate’ have also been cut from the textbooks.

Fourth, spelling, grammatical and factual errors.

At least 114 spelling mistakes have been identified in the grade X Kannada textbook alone. In 2017, ​​a team of experts, appointed by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education, to look into the quality and veracity of the study material, found 170 errors in the textbooks of the state syllabus for classes I to X. The errors include grammatical and spelling mistakes, errors in dates, page numbers and incorrect use of photographs and missing letters.

The first chapter in a history textbook misspells the Persian Gulf as ‘Presian' Gulf. While elsewhere Saina Nehwal's name is misspelt as 'Sania' Nehwal and Pullela Gopichand's name is misspelt as 'Pallela' Gopichand. The textbook also falsely claims that P V Sindhu won the bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when in fact, she won the silver.

In 2017, these errors were brought to the notice of the then minister for Primary and Higher Education, Tanveer Sait; however, no remedial action was taken. The inaccuracies have prevailed despite the scrutiny of the textbook review committee led by Baraguru Ramachandrappa and 27 other sub-committees with around 185 members.

Last month B C Nagesh, the Primary and Secondary Education Minister, stated that an official order was issued and the committee headed by Mr Rohit Chakrathirtha was asked to review the textbooks for mistakes. Mr Chakrathirtha stated that the committee would review “all the deviations, additions and deletions" made by the former revision committee and examine if there are any anomalies in the text.

Many from the opposition in Karnataka have criticised the appointment of Mr Chakrathithra, as the saffron party’s attempt to saffronise textbooks. Mr Chakrathitra has argued for patience, asking academicians to wait for the committee to first submit its findings, discuss the same and criticise later.

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