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Karnataka Textbooks Row: Congress Government Drops Chapter On RSS Founder, Brings Back Ambedkar, Nehru

In the run-up to the assembly elections in the state this year, the Congress had in its poll manifesto promised to undo the changes made to school textbooks when the BJP was in power, and had also promised to scrap the National Education Policy

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Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah
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The Karnataka Cabinet on Thursday announced the approval of revision of Kannada and Social Science textbooks of classes 6 to 10 in the state for this academic year by removing the chapters on RSS founder K B Hedgewar and Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar among others.

The cabinet further consented to add chapters on social reformer and educator Savitribai Phule, Nehru's letters to Indira Gandhi and poetry on Ambedkar, and do away with the changes that were brought in by the previous BJP government.

In the run-up to the assembly elections in the state this year, the Congress had in its poll manifesto promised to undo the changes made to school textbooks when the BJP was in power, and had also promised to scrap the National Education Policy (NEP).

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"Regarding textbook revision, the Cabinet discussed the proposal brought by the department, the lesson removed and added, and the decisions to be taken, and has given its approval," Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister H K Patil said after the cabinet meeting.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kumar Bangarappa said it was Congress's promise in the manifesto to revise the textbooks and that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has consistently given his guidance on this. 

Noting that the textbooks had reached the students by the time the new government came to power, he said, "We cannot stop it; withdrawing and reprinting new textbooks would lead to loss of hundreds of crores. There is a provision of supplementary books as done in the past, so we are going for a supplementary book regarding what is to be done and what is not needed or may lead to wrong thinking. We have removed what was not required."

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The education minister said a five-member expert committee of Rajappa Dalawai, Raveesh Kumar, Prof T R Chandrashekar, Dr Ashwath Narayan, and Rajesh has been tasked with revising the text book for this year.

He said, "Though there were suggestions for larger changes, keeping in mind technical and printing difficulties, and as the academic year has started, only a few changes have been made this time in Kannada and social sciences textbooks of classes 6 to 10 . This may cost about Rs 10-12 lakh. There are 75,000 schools in the state; we will ensure it reaches them."

After Congress came to power, a delegation of writers, thinkers and representatives of various organisations met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and petitioned him regarding the revision of textbooks. 

Responding to the question of what has been added and removed during the revision, Bangarappa said, "We have only restored what was there before the previous BJP government made changes; we have removed the changes they had made."

Changes in chapters

Among the changes made were a chapter on Savitri Phule, which was removed, has been re-introduced, a poem on Ambedkar titled 'Nee Hoda Marudina' has been added, and 'Magalige Bareda Patra' - a chapter on Nehru's letters to Indira Gandhi has also been reintroduced.

"We have removed a chapter on Hedgewar, Savarkar and a chapter written by Hindu activist and thinker Chakravarthy Sulibele, also some harsh words have been changed," he added. He however did not wish to answer a question on whether a chapter on 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan has been reintroduced.

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A textbook controversy had erupted during the previous BJP regime, with demands by the then opposition Congress and some writers for sacking the then textbook review committee chief Rohith Chakratirtha for allegedly "saffronising" school textbooks by including the speech of RSS founder K B Hedgewar as a chapter, and omitting chapters on key figures like freedom fighters, social reformers, and the writings of noted literary figures.

Allegations of erroneous content on 12th century social reformer Basavanna and certain factual errors in the textbooks also came to the fore, including accusations of disrespecting 'Raashtra Kavi' (national poet) Kuvempu and distortion of the state anthem penned by him. Initially the allegations were refuted but subsequently rectifications were made in some cases.

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Former education minister BC Nagesh had said that changes (in the textbooks) were made by taking "these people into confidence". "But they were hurt by these changes, we removed the lessons on Nehru & reduced the lessons on Tipu Sultan. We brought such lessons that develops a feeling of nationalism among students. Though Congress ruled the country & the state for many years but they are not bothered about the education system. We were practising the same system framed by Macaulay," he said.

Noting that the academic year has just started and students will not be taught chapters for a month now, Bangarappa said, "Within that time, we will send supplementary books. It will be about 15 pages, and as soon as it is printed in two days it will reach teachers.

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"These changes will only be for this year, and there will be changes for next year in the interest of students," he said.

The minister further said that the chief minister has asked that a textbook committee be formed, and to improve teaching style and standards, keeping in mind the interest of the students. "Will do it in 10 days and send it to the CM for approval."

Mandatory reading of Preamble

The state cabinet on Thursday also made it it mandatory for all schools and colleges, whether government, aided or private, to read the Preamble of the Constitution daily.

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It has also made it compulsory to have a portrait of the Preamble of the Constitution put up at all government and semi-government offices in the state.
"Keeping in mind the freedom struggle, the idea behind writing of the Constitution, the people, especially the youth at schools, colleges and universities -- whether it is government, aided or private -- should compulsorily read the Preamble of the Constitution," Social Welfare Minister H C Mahadevappa said.

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, he said this will motivate the youth to contribute towards nation building and promote brotherhood among all communities.

"Having such a great Constitution, our youth should compulsorily read its preamble every day," he said, adding that all government and semi-government offices should have a portrait of it displayed.

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