News Brief

‘Veer’ Erased From His Name In Textbooks, Savarkar Now Denied Space At University Seminar In Congress-Ruled Rajasthan  

Rajasthan’s Deputy CM Sachin Pilot (L) with CM Ashok Gehlot (R) (Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • ICHR, which had requested space for a seminar on Veer Savarkar, told by Rajasthan University to chose “other topic”.

Months after the title “Veer” (courageous) was removed from references to freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in school textbooks in Rajasthan, Rajasthan University has now “denied” a request to hold a seminar on the visionary and national hero.

The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), an autonomous academic body funded by the Government of India, has its request to hold a seminar on VD Savarkar, “declined”.

According to a report in the Economic Times, the ICHR event was part of a multi-city talk series, including Jaipur, Guwahati, Port Blair and Pune. It is backed by RSS affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana.

ET quoted an ICHR functionary as saying: “We had sought space and permission from Rajasthan University to hold a talk series on Savarkar in their campus but they got back saying we could choose any other topic.”

It seems that space for Savarkar is depleting in Congress-rule Rajasthan.

In Congress’ fight for ideology, policies and programmes against the BJP, educational institutions and textbooks in the state are leaving no ambiguity on their new stand on Savarkar.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is known to have attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi after returning from campaigning for the Maharashtra Assembly polls.

The BJP, in its Maharashtra campaign, had promised a Bharat Ratna for Savarkar.

According to a Times of India report, Gehlot said, “The saffron party has a fascist ideology and does not believe in democracy.”

It seems the phrase  — “fascist ideology” — in reference to Savarkar, begets an atmosphere of caution in Rajasthan when it comes to the nationalist and visionary.

ET quoted Pramila Poonia, head of the department of history and culture, Rajasthan University, as saying: “We didn't refuse entirely but we asked them for time for a month, and more details, because we need to consult others on this. There are aspects of Savarkar that are controversial and we did not want any problems.”

In May this year, a short biography of Savarkar, which was introduced by the Vasundhara Raje government, was revised after the Congress returned to power and constituted a textbook revision committee.

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After the change, it was reported that the social sciences class books of class X mention that, “Savarkar had described himself as “son of Portugal” while seeking clemency from the British government in 1910-11.”

The affixing of ‘son of Portugal’ to Savarkar's name did not go down well with the BJP.

Former Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnanis slammed the Congress over the matter. Devnani had then said that the Congress should take inspiration from former PM Indira Gandhi, who had described Savarkar as the “byword for daring and patriotism.”

Devnani  reminded the Congress-led state government about the various instances where Indira Gandhi had had hailed Savarkar through different gestures. According to a Deccan Herald report, he reminded the Congress of Gandhi issuing a commemorative stamp in 1970, donating a sum of Rs 11,000 from her personal account, and ordering the Films Division to produce a documentary on Savarkar’s life.

Another new facet seems to arise in the constant clash of ideologies surrounding Savarkar.

“The truth about Savarkar’ — the talk series by ICHR — was launched on the occasion of National Education Day, which is a commemoration of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s birthday.

In its report, ET mentions: “Rizwan Qaiser, professor, department of history, Jamia Millia Islamia, said it was inappropriate of the ICHR to honour Savarkar on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s birthday.”

In May, after the changes in textbooks, the response from Rajasthan Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasara was pretty interesting.

The DH report quotes him as saying:

What can I say? A committee of experts has written it based on authenticity and their recommendations. I can only say that whatever has been written in the textbooks have been written based on the recommendations of educationists.

The stand taken on Savarkar, by the education minister and the educationists, makes it clear that ideology games are discreetly at play.

Everyone wants to ensure that the powers-that-be in the Congress are not on the backfoot owing to references to Indira Gandhi’s views on Savarkar.

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