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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

RSS icons set to be relegated as Rajasthan govt ‘desaffronises’ books

The books are being written to include Savarkar’s mercy petitions to the British from jail — a move that has not gone down well with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

india Updated: May 14, 2019 09:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Former education minister Vasudev Devnani said that the Congress has always eulogised one family and ignored the history of other freedom fighters.
Former education minister Vasudev Devnani said that the Congress has always eulogised one family and ignored the history of other freedom fighters.(File photo)
         

Rajasthan’s five-month old Congress government has embarked on a task that’s almost become mandatory for any new government (irrespective of its leanings) in India: redoing school books.

It has decided to rewrite a Class 10 history book to remove glowing references to Hindu Mahasabha founder VD Savakar and re-emphasise on the role of father of nation Mahatma Gandhi and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in India. Specifically, the books are being written to include Savarkar’s mercy petitions to the British from jail — a move that has not gone down well with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It was the state’s previous BJP government that introduced the section on Savarkar.

The book currently in use mentions Savarkar as a great freedom fighter, nationalist and a great organisation man. It also says he tried to prevent the partition of India. The new book, which has not yet been released, adds to the existing introduction of Savarkar mentioning that “he was tortured in jail” and that “troubled by the afflictions in jail, Savarkar sent mercy petitions to the British government”, according to education minister Govind Dotasara.

Dotasara said the previous government forced its ideology, neglected the contributions of other freedom fighters and glorified people such as Savarkar. “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 prime ministers 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 as great,” the minister said. Upadhyaya was a leader of the Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the BJP.

Dotasara said the government set up a review committee in February this year which has suggested changes on the basis of facts.

Former education minister 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 has always ignored nationalists, he added. It is now trying to present distorted facts about a brave freedom fighter who has been associated with Hindutva, Devnani said.

“Savarkar was sentenced to life imprisonment twice and consistently fought against the British. Just because he was a supporter of Hindutva, distorted facts about him are being presented. The government should not do this as this will lead to anger among the people,” he added.

Rajiv Gupta, former head of department of sociology at the University of Rajasthan, said review of the content on Savarkar as taught in the books 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 is also a fact.”

The previous BJP government was accused of saffronising schoolbooks by diminishing role of leaders associated with the Congress such as Nehru and Gandhi and eulogising leaders associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP.

The books glorified Savarkar’s role, called the Congress a nurtured baby of the British and declared Maharana Pratap a victor in the Battle of Haldighati in 1576 against Mughal emperor Akbar.

They also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy, hailed demonetisation as a drive to cleanse the country of black money, and backed a uniform civil code. The panel of historians set up by the Congress has submitted its report to the education department and sought several changes in the books for classes 8 to 12.