A Class 8 Kannada textbook is in the middle of a controversy in Karnataka over a paragraph about Hindutva icon Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. However, experts say it may have been taken a little too literally.
A paragraph in the book claimed Savarkar used to sit on the wings of a bird and fly out to visit the homeland while he was imprisoned in Andaman.
The paragraph read, “In the room where Savarkar was jailed, there was not even a small keyhole. However, bulbul birds would visit the room from somewhere, on whose wings Savarkar would sit and fly out to visit the motherland every day.”
The paragraph in question is taken from author KT Gatti’s Kalavannu Geddavaru (“Those who won against time”) and follows an introduction to Savarkar in the second-language textbook for Kannada for Class 8 students.
After the paragraph made rounds on social media, the Karnataka Textbook Society (KTBS) received many oral complaints.
The controversy of the textbook paragraph comes after the recent decision of the ruling BJP government to use posters and banners of Savarkar in the forthcoming Ganesha festival.
Metaphor or not?
The textbook paragraph was met with mixed reactions from different sections.
Kannada literary figure and Sahitya Academy winner G Ramakrishna considered the paragraph taken out of context.
He told South First, “KT Gatti’s Kalavannu Geddavaru is a travelogue and the literary work should be considered in its original form. It is a figure of speech and metaphorical in nature. Ignoring the literary element in the text is incorrect.”
The litterateur added: “In the midst of being a critic of the Hindutva ideologue, we should not blur the line of rational reasoning.”
As per Ramakrishna, the controversy might be the result of an absurd projection of Savarkar by the BJP and the right wing in the recent past.
According to Congress leader and former minister Priyank Kharge, the textbook paragraph didn’t sound like a metaphor.
He tweeted to take a swipe at the controversial paragraph and wrote , “There was not even a key hole in the cell where Savarkar was incarcerated. But, bulbul birds used to visit the room and Savarkar used to sit on their wings and fly out and visit the motherland every day. [sic]”
This doesn’t sound like it was meant to be a metaphor.
“There was not even a key hole in the cell where Savarkar was incarcerated. But, bulbul birds used to visit the room and Savarkar used sit on their wings and fly out and visit the motherland every day” https://t.co/yTS7w6411m
— Priyank Kharge / ಪ್ರಿಯಾಂಕ್ ಖರ್ಗೆ (@PriyankKharge) August 27, 2022
Justifying the textbook paragraph, Karnataka’s Minister, Department of School Education and Literacy BC Nagesh told reporters: “Savarkar is a great freedom fighter. No matter how much he is glorified, it is not adequate for his sacrifice. What the writer has described in that lesson is accurate.”
Last month, textbooks in Karnataka became a point of contention for having controversial changes made by the textbook review committee, which were vehemently criticised by experts and literary figures of the state.