The chapter in the Class 8 Kannada textbook which has sparked a row is called ‘Kalavannu Geddavaru’ (Those who won against time), written by KT Gatti.

Image of VD Savarkar and Bulbul in brown background
news Controversy Sunday, August 28, 2022 - 15:31

Does a Kannada textbook literally claim that Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar sat on a bulbul bird and flew out of prison? This is the latest viral controversy in Karnataka, where a Class 8 Kannada textbook has the passage, "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." Critics claim that the passage has been written to be interpreted literally, and will be confusing for students. The people behind the textbook however have rubbished the controversy, and said that the passage is 'Sahitya Alankara' — beautified prose.

The passage in question is part of a chapter on VD Savarkar in the Karnataka state board's Class 8 Kannada (second language) textbook. The chapter introduces Savarkar to students, and this section is followed by an extract from a travelogue to Andaman written by Kannada writer KT Gatti. Gatti visits the Cellular Jail where Savarkar was imprisoned between 1911 and 1924, and writes about the Hindutva leader's life in prison, as part of which he brings in the bulbul passage.

Noting that the passage doesn’t sound like it’s a metaphor, Congress MLA Priyank Kharge wrote on Twitter, “This doesn’t sound like it was meant to be a metaphor. There was not even a keyhole 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”

Rohith Chakratirtha, chairman of now dissolved Karnataka Textbook Revision Committee, issued a statement clarifying that the line is a figure of speech and not a literal claim that Savarkar flew on a bulbul. "I wonder if the intellect of few people has sunk so low that they can't understand what a figure of speech is," he said.

The chapter in question is called ‘Kalavannu Geddavaru’ (Those who won against time),  written by KT Gatti, which replaced an earlier lesson called ‘Blood Group’ by Vijayamala Ranganath. According to a report in Deccan Herald, the Karnataka Text Book Society (KTBS) has received three oral complaints against the bulbul paragraph.

VD Savarkar was a Hindutva ideologue who wrote a book titled 'Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?', published initially as 'Essentials of Hindutva'. After being released from the Andaman prison in 1924, he received criticism for not joining the Indian Freedom Movement. He was also accused of plotting the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but the court cleared the allegations due to lack of evidence.

Read: Dalit writers out, RSS ideologues in: List of changes in Karnataka textbooks

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