The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Karnataka had set up a textbook review committee some years ago under the chairmanship of Rohith Chakratirta review, revise, correct and improve Kannada and history textbooks. The past
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Karnataka had set up a textbook review committee some years ago under the chairmanship of Rohith Chakratirta review, revise, correct and improve Kannada and history textbooks.
The past few weeks have seen raging debate and controversy around what changes could be introduced based on the recommendations of this committee.
Much of India’s population, especially constituencies that support the BJP, have now realized the need to correct and “detoxify” the textbooks that have been crafted by Marxist intellectuals over many decades.
However, the inherited influence and entrenched power networks of those who oppose these essential changes are both a formidable and predictable obstacle on this path. The events unfolding and continuing to unfold in Karnataka are therefore important to draw some quick lessons for those who want to challenge leftist/Marxist hegemony in this area.
Shameless and Motivated Disinformation
This series of controversies was started on the basis of a deliberate lie and misinformation that the textbook committee would replace a lesson on Bhagat Singh with a lesson on KB Hedgewar. This was soon followed by equally malicious lies as the lessons on reformer Narayana Guru, philosopher Swami Vivekananda were dropped in favor of a few lessons on or written by Brahmins.
All of these lies have been denied by the chair of the review board and by the minister. But the campaign of lies had succeeded in creating a cloud of controversy and blaming those working on it.
The realistic presentation of Tipu Sultan and Periyar, as opposed to their larger-than-life presentation in the previous version, was also pointed out by status-quists, but they may not have been so detrimental to the committee’s efforts. and government.
It is obvious that these lies have been propagated to create suspicion and deepen divisions within Hindu society. A frivolous and harmless take (from many years ago) on the karnataka state song has been deliberately twisted to make it appear as an insult to the great poet Kuvempu – and all Vokkaligas.
A few Kannada writers aligned with Siddaramiah have resigned from a few government bodies in protest. These authors mentioned Okkuta Vyavasthe (India as a Union of States) and Kuvempu’s poem that imagines Karnataka maate (mother) as daughter of Mother India in their resignation letter. This contradiction seems to have missed the attention of these ideologues.
Poor PR strategy, lack of counter-narrative
Review and revision of textbooks – especially Kannada and history; cannot be imagined as an apolitical and purely intellectual enterprise. Have we forgotten the ferocity with which the Marxist intellectual ecosystem fought the similar efforts of Murali Manohar Joshi? The Chairman of the Review Committee, the Minister in Charge (BC Nagesh) and the Government of Karnataka BJP – all appear to be completely unprepared for this onslaught of the combined forces of Congress and Marxist intellectuals (Janata Dal Secular joined more late as a cheerleader).
Karnataka is heading towards elections in early 2023 and the political climate in the state has been red hot for many months now. Therefore, shouldn’t those who have the power and the authority to see this effort bear fruit wait, prepare and keep the initiative on this issue? It certainly did not seem so to a concerned lay observer like this author.
Ideally, they should have systematically drawn the public’s attention to the dangerous lies, the shortcomings of existing textbooks long before and remained in the limelight. Instead, we only heard about it in a footnote in the response offered to the current allegations.
Chakrathirtha has been quiet and fearsome in his talk and television appearances, but it’s true that his name and reputation have come under intense scrutiny and damage. As the minister in charge dug his heels in and backed off Chakrathirtha in appointing him to the PUC Textbook Review Board (Class XI and Class XII)some of the mistakes in his response led the government to face more uncomfortable questions.
While everyone from Siddaramaiah, HD Kumaraswamy and a long list of Kannada Marxists/Statutists lined up to denigrate this review effort and Chakrathirtha personally, no one of comparable position and weight responded from the BJP. Apart from Chakrathirtha, no other member of this committee was also heard to vocally defend its recommendations.
The state BJP and Karnataka government were much better prepared and represented in the media lately. hijab controversy – which clearly shows that it is not so much about incompetence as about willful neglect of this issue when it comes to allocating resources and prioritizing.
Silos and distribution of networks in Right and Hindutva circles
India’s non-left, right, and Hindutva forces have certainly grown, matured, and become more capable when it comes to effectively defending their issues and truths. They have certainly managed to win many more battles than lose on the national stage at least. But this episode in Karnataka more than revealed the weakness of their front lines.
Let’s talk about some of the successes. The Kashmir Files was well defended and supported by the voices of government, industry and intellectual circles. Vikram Sampath’s book on Savarkar was well presented and the malicious attacks on the author and Veer Savarkar were also effectively dealt with by all voices. The hijab The episode (which also hails from Karnataka) was well handled in English and Kannada media.
However, the issue of textbook revision remained limited to Kannada media and Karnataka circles. It hasn’t become a national issue in the English-language media. Those who oppose the changes react in the same way and with the same force as during the hijab question, but the response from the BJP (all units), intellectuals and other influential voices fell far short of what this question deserved.
Think about it – while this issue was burning in the Kannada media, some of the most influential voices from non-left/right circles were in Bangalore for the India Foundation Conclave and this author did not come across any comments/statements from speakers on this topic.
This comment should not be confused with a criticism of the conclave or its speakers. It’s just an observation that maybe there are silos in this circle without interconnections. There are many famous writers, orators from Karnataka state in this list – were they too uninformed about these developments? Or did they choose not to associate their name with a policy that appeared to be on a tough wicket?
There is no cost to re-tweeting the prime minister’s tweets, but defending crucial government policies requires doing your homework. Winning elections and forming governments is only an essential first step to bringing about meaningful change. Without a careful, coordinated, and deliberate push, I fear we will continue to stumble and fall whenever we touch on these policy areas.