Saffron hue in Karnataka school text books

By Asim Khan,

The revision of social science text books by the BJP Government in Karnataka has stirred up strong objections from many corners of the society, and this comes with no surprise, though the BJP is claiming that the text books have been set under NCERT guidelines, a dive into the draft of fifth and eight standard text books provides an insight into the validity of these objections.

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What are the NCERT guidelines?

A. Values and Ideals: education should promote in society, as well as help the learner develop a rational commitment to:

• Equality – of status and opportunity,
• Freedom – of thought, expression, beliefs, faith and worship; as a value in life
• Autonomy of mind – as independence of thinking, based on reason,
• Autonomy of action – freedom to chose, ability and freedom to decide and ability and freedom to act,
• Care and respect for others – going beyond respecting their freedom and autonomy, concern about well being and sensitivity to all members of society,
• Justice: social, economic and political.

B. Capabilities of individual human beings

• Knowledge base – sufficiently broad knowledge base encompassing all crucial areas of socio-political life, and all basic ways of investigation and validation of knowledge
• Sensitivity to others – Sensitivity to others well beings and feelings coupled with knowledge should form basis of rational commitment to values. ‘Others’ should include all life forms.
• Rational/critical attitude: Critical rationality is the only way to autonomy of thought and action.
• Learning to learn – the future needs of development of knowledge, reason, sensitivity and skills cannot be determined in advance. Therefore, ability to learn as new needs arise in new situations is necessary to function autonomously in a democratic society.
• Work and ability to participate in economic processes – choices in life and ability to participate in the democratic processes depends on ability to contribute to the society in its various functions.
• Aesthetic appreciation/creation – appreciation of beauty and art forms is an integral part of human life.

Objectionable points in the eight standard text book:

Cultural India

The book unfolds with a map under the heading Cultural India which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal, Burma and China with puranic names, Kandahar named as Gandhari desh, Burma as Brahmadesh and China as Shamadesh. The map looks like a replica of the Akhand Bharath map idolized by Hindu fundamentalist organizations. Wouldn’t this approach create ill feelings against sovereign neighboring countries?

Literature that praise India
Beside the map under the sub heading “literatures that praise India”, are listed various text on Indian history that includes only Hindu puranic texts like Vishnu Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Very surprisingly, the only modern text listed is named Veer Savarkar’s literature. Is the objective here to teach students about Indian history? Or introduce them to Hindu religious books and writings of a known Hindu nationalist?

Promotion of Bi Party system
As part of an exercise in political science chapter under the heading “Meaning of political science and its importance”, students have been asked to meet the local MLA and discuss on bi party system. This is a negation of regional political parties that have destabilized the metrics of majoritarian politics and encroached upon opportunities to represent themselves.

Suspicion towards foreigners
While the whole world is tutoring its citizens to show respect and kindness to foreigners, the social science text book in Karnataka would engrain suspicion in the minds of the children towards foreigners. In the “chapter citizen and citizenship”, students have been encouraged to visit the police station, meet the higher officers and discuss about foreigners indulging in criminal activities in India and the limits of the police department to act against them.

Objectionable points in the fifth standard text book:

The Battle for Bidannur
“Memories of the past”, a chapter in the fifth standard text book illustrates the battle between Rani Veeramma ji of Bidannur and Hyder Ali, it goes on to say that Veeramma ji fought hard but still the enemy forces won. This is a veiled demonization of the personality of Hyder Ali and the predominantly Muslim forces under him by terming them as “enemy forces”.

History of Lal Bagh
It is widely known that Lal bagh was commissioned by Hyder Ali in 1760 and completed by his son Tipu Sultan. The text gives a brief info about Lal Bagh but falls short of any information on Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. This seems like a deliberate attempt to erase Muslim contribution in Karnataka from History.

Contribution of Tagadur Ramachandra Rao
In the chapter named “love and sacrifice for the country” the book pens down the life and achievements of freedom fighter Tagadur Ramachandra Rao who fought against untouchability, but then, it also mentions about his struggle in bringing back poor Hindus who had converted to Christianity. Imagine a school kid studying this; what would he think about his fellow Christian classmates? Is this love for the nation to win back Hindus who had converted? Doesn’t this sound similar to the rhetoric of many VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders?

Hyderabad Nizam and the Hindu citizens
Continuing in the same chapter, a biased and misleading text reads that the 86% Hindus living under Hyderabad Nizam were treated harshly, they had to take permission to celebrate any religious ritual that were rarely permitted, even the marriage rituals had to be carried out with permission whereas in another instance the Vijayanagar kings are pictured as rulers who protected, nurtured and upheld Hindu religion and culture for over 200 years. By deliberately neglecting the secular nature of Nizams and by picturizing Vijaynagar kings as saviors of the Hindu religion, the text is attempting to sow the seeds of communalism in the tender minds of children.

Superseding the court’s Judgment on Baba Budangiri
Baba Budangiri, a religious shrine popular to Muslims and Hindus has been the source of many riots and communal tension in the state. The case is still pending in courts, but the social science text book supersedes the pending judgment and mentions it by the Hindu name Datta Peetha.

Bidar or Vidhuranagara
A phrase in the text says that Bidar, a persian name meaning “Awakening” was originally called by its Vedic name “Vidhuranagara” or Bidururu Pura. This is an attempt to bring back the Hindu past in the minds of the students.

Contributions of Muslim rulers and Sufi Saints neglected
Quite surprisingly the contributions of Muslim rulers like Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Lodi, Mughals and great Sufi saints find no space in the social science text books.

Contribution of literates
While S.L Byrappa, a writer known for his communal thoughts has been found valuable to be penned, the contributions of great literates like Lankesh and Poorna Chandra Tejasvi do not exist in the book.

Democracy and Dynastic politics
In one of the chapters on democracy students are questioned if they like dynastic politics, which seems to be an indirect attack on the Congress Party.

Text books should be revised under NCERT guidelines
The BJP Government has agreed to bring out mere changes in the text books that they initially claimed to have been reviewed at four different levels with over 500 teachers including 35 experts watching over it.

With lame opposition parties in the state, if it was not for Dr C.S Dwarkanath who blew the whistle and the stiff resistance by various organizations that followed, the text books would have flown unnoticed into the schools. It is now important for civil right groups and organizations to ensure complete revision of the text books under the NCERT guidelines.

(With inputs from Tauseef Madikere)

Article first appeared on website.