BJP glorified Savarkar, will rejig school syllabus: Rajasthan government
The Rajasthan government said it will overhaul the history textbooks in the state removing “eulogising references” to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologues such as Veer Savakar and re-emphasise on the role of father of nation Mahatma Gandhi and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The move to introduce Savarkar as one who “begged the British for mercy” has not gone down well with the opposition BJP which said it was an attempt to “distort history”.
The new Class 10 textbook for Social Science of the Rajasthan board to be introduced from the next academic year will mention that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar filed mercy petitions to the British government after being tortured in jail.
The textbook presently used in the state board school mentions Savarkar as a great freedom fighter. Along with his education qualifications and upbringing, the textbook says that he made a lot of effort to “prevent the division of India.”
The new textbook, which has not yet come into the market, adds to the existing introduction of Savarkar saying, “Troubled by the afflictions in jail, Savarkar sent mercy petitions to the British government. For the first time, the mercy petitions were sent on August 30, 1910 and the other was sent on November 14, 1911, in which Savarkar mentions himself as son of Portugal.”
Education minister Govind Dotasara said the previous government “forced its ideology” and made changed in history which neglected the contributions other freedom fighters and instead glorified people such as Savarkar, who he said “had no contributions in the independence struggle”.
“We will remove the distortions and ensure that the contribution of all leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru is rightly reflected in the textbooks,” he said.
He also acknowledged the role of former PM Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh in the nation’s development. “But, it is not right to glorify Veer Savarkar and Deendayal Upadhyaya and describe them great,” the minister said.
Dotasara said the government had set up a review committee in February this year which had suggested changes on the basis of facts. He said the government wants to teach children the correct history.
Chief minister Ashok Gehlot, at a press conference said a committee had been set to examine the issue. He said what should and should not be included in the course is a matter of debate. Gehlot said when government’s changes at the centre or in a state, committees are constituted to examine. “I believe whichever party it is - if they distort or twist history than they will never be able to create history.”
Former education minister and BJP leader Vasudev Devnani said that the Congress has always eulogised one family and ignored the history of other freedom fighters. It is a party that has been against Hindutva and it has always ignored nationalists. It is now trying to present distorted facts about a brave freedom fighter who has been associated with Hindutva, he said.
Devnani said that the government move to change history and present baseless and twisted history about Savarkar, who was a brave warrior and a patriot, was “condemanable”.
“Savarkar was sentenced to life imprisonment twice and consistently fought against the British. Just because he was a supporter of Hindutva so distorted facts about him are being presented,” said Devnani.
Rajiv Gupta, former head of department of Sociology at the University of Rajasthan, said review of the content on Savarkar as taught in the textbooks was important.
“He was a radical freedom fighter in the beginning and he was punished severely, that is a fact. But he later sought forgiveness from the British, that his also a fact. If we give these facts about Savarkar, it will not diminish his personality.”
Gupta said there was nothing wrong with stating facts but we also do not know in what circumstances compelled them to take certain actions so passing hasty judgements is not right.
The previous BJP government in the state had faced criticism over alleged efforts to “saffronise” textbooks by diminishing the role of leaders associated with the Congress such as Nehru and Gandhi and eulogising leaders associated with the RSS and the BJP.
The textbooks also lauded prime minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy, hailed demonetisation move as a drive to cleanse the country of black money and backed a uniform civil code. The panel of historians, which has submitted its report to the education department, has sought several changes in the textbooks for Class 8 to 12.