This comes amid protests from the literary community as well as from politicians and the public, seeking Rohit Chakrathirtha’s resignation from the textbook revision committee.

Rohit Chakrathirtha: Karnataka textbook committee chief's sexist tweets from 2016 surface, draw outrageAdamaruMatha/Screengrab
news Controversy Friday, June 03, 2022 - 17:33

As the row over revised Class 10 textbooks has snowballed into a political slugfest in Karnataka, Rohit Chakrathirtha, the chairman of the textbook review committee, has once again become embroiled in a controversy. Even as Chakrathirtha is facing flak for adding contentious chapters to the textbook — such as including a speech by RSS founder Hedgewar — a few of his tweets from 2016 have now sparked outrage among a section of the people and politicians.

As per reports, Chakrathirtha had posted content on Twitter that had strong sexist undertones. In one such tweet, The Times of India (ToI) reported, he had equated watching a cricket match with watching porn. He also tweeted sexist comments about feminism, with one tweet saying that “feminism is the belief that both sexes may become equal by focusing solely on one of them”, the ToI report states. The New Indian Express reported that he also made a joke about women drivers, and also posted other tweets referencing pornography. His Twitter account has now been made private.

Chakrathirtha has claimed that detractors have been trying to “corner” him over the past few weeks. Defending his tweets, he said, “This has nothing to do with textbook revisions.” However, opposition leaders have strengthened their call for Chakrathirtha’s resignation from the review committee, with Congress Karnataka unit chief DK Shivakumar saying his “dirty posts show what kind of people Bommai’s BJP government is encouraging”.

Kuvempu controversy

The fresh controversy comes on the heels of a Facebook post of a distorted version of the Kannada ‘nadageethe’ or state anthem penned by famous writer Kuvempu. Social activist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader BT Naganna has even filed a complaint with the Cubbon Park police station in Bengaluru over the same, in which he states that Chakrathirtha “insulted” the nadageethe. The complaint further states that in the satirical version of the song, he had equated Karnataka to the Congress party, and India to Arab countries. "Further, he has compared our great Tunga river to arrack (liquor) and portrayed that Karnataka is a place meant for drunkards. He has said that people of Karnataka are stupid and have no enthusiasm," the complaint reads.

While Chakrathirtha has defended the 2017 post as a WhatsApp forward that he had posted, the incident sparked outrage within the Kannada literary community, who saw it as an insult to Kuvempu, regarded as one of the greatest writers of the state. Many have called for Chakrathirtha’s resignation from the post of chairman of the textbook review committee. On May 30, scholar Nadoja Hampa Nagarajaiah quit his position as the head of the Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana (a trust dedicated to Kuvempu), saying it was “difficult for me to keep silent regarding insults to Kuvempu and the nadageethe”. In his letter, the scholar hit out at the government for giving a “responsible post to a person who insulted Kuvempu and the community he hailed from, instead of taking action”.

Members of the Rashtrakavi Dr GS Shivarudrappa Pratishtana have also tendered their resignations over the row, with chairman Professor SG Siddaramaiah accusing the government of not acting against “elements attacking the educational, cultural and political sphere in Karnataka and spreading hatred”, The New Indian Express reported. The opposition has also called for Chakrathirtha’s resignation, saying that he has “no respect for the state flag, state anthem and Kuvempu”, and added that the controversy-ridden textbook revision committee must be disbanded.

Chakrathirtha has responded to the allegations of distorting the naadageethe, claiming that “vested interests” are using his old social media post for political gain. “The controversy has now gone out of control and has got nothing to do with textbooks. It is a political witch-hunt by a certain section of society,” he told Indian Express.

Read: Scholars, writers quit Karnataka govt bodies to protest saffronisation of textbooks

Questions about the political stance of the review committee were first raised when a few groups had alleged that a chapter on Bhagat Singh would be replaced with a speech by RSS founder KB Hedgewar, among other revisions. Education Minister BC Nagesh later clarified that while Hedgewar’s speech was going to be added, the Bhagat Singh chapter would remain.

Karnataka CM responds

With protests against Chakrathirtha and saffronisation of the revised textbooks growing, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has asked Education Minister BC Nagesh to submit a report on the controversies surrounding the chairman, and said that further action would be taken based on this. The Education Minister is currently attending a conclave on the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in Gujarat. 

Read: NSUI burns 'RSS khaki shorts' outside Karnataka Min's home over textbook row

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.