Strongly defending the revision of textbooks that has stirred a huge controversy, Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh insisted that the government had not dropped content related to freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, social reformer Narayana Guru, rationalist Periyar Ramaswamy or 19th century Mysuru king Tipu Sultan.
Addressing a press conference, he said the committee had only expanded on these ideas by including more historically important figures such as Chandrashekar Azad, Rajguru, Sukhdev Singh, and others and editing some content.
Explaining the manner in which texts had been edited, the Minister said: “We edited some lines in the lesson of Periyar which would hurt Hindu sentiments. We have also edited paragraphs that glorified Tipu Sultan and told the other side of the story as well. Narayana Guru’s chapter is only shifted from one class to another.”
“We are going to introduce facts and real history to students without glorifying anybody,” he said, adding that he was ready for a dialogue on the issue.
The Minister defended the inclusion of the lesson based on the speech of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar and said: “Hedgewar was a great nationalist. He entered the freedom movement as a member of the Congress and left after the failure of the Khilafat movement. To uphold the pride of the country, he formed RSS in 1925. He is an inspiration for lakhs of people across the country, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and others,” he said. He added that they had edited the word “Bhagva dwaja” and used only “dhwaja” because it was a different historical context prior to independence when there was no national flag.
The ongoing controversy around textbooks, he insisted, was because the Opposition was “unable to stomach the strides made in the field of education by the present Government led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.”
He said that the previous textbook revision committee, which was headed by Baragur Ramachandrappa, had also dropped many lessons, but it had never become controversial. Poems by Kuvempu and Kayyara Kinhanna Rai were dropped and so were lessons on Gandhi and Ambedkar, he argued.
Asked about the controversy on most new additions to textbooks being authored by writers from the Brahmin community while dropping many by those from non-Brahmin castes, Mr. Nagesh asked why caste issue was being “raked up even among writers.”
“The previous committee too had included 19 lessons by Brahmin authors but it was not questioned. The so-called intellectuals are creating a controversy and caste politics around textbooks,” the Minister alleged.
On the furore over inclusion of a lesson by BJP and founder of Yuva Brigade Chakravarthi Sulibele, Mr. Nagesh said: “Mr. Sulibele does not belong to any political party. He is a motivational speaker.” He said that the earlier textbook had a lesson by active politician and former Minister Jaimala, referring to the lesson on Jyotiba Phule authored by her. The Minister pointed out that Devanuru Mahadeva, who is the author of ‘Edege Bidda Akshara’ (retained in the current textbook) is also associated with a political outfit. The Bhagat Singh lesson (reintroduced after the controversy) is authored by G. Ramakrishna who is a Marxist. “So there is nothing wrong in including Sulibele’s lesson,” he insisted.
‘IIT and CET professor’
Reacting to the criticism that Mr. Chakrathirtha was not qualified to head the committee, Mr. Nagesh claimed that he was an “IIT and CET professor” without further elaborating on it. “He is a highly capable person to head the committee,” he said.