‘If Savarkar is no longer Veer, how is Nehru ‘Pundit’?

Not only VD Savarkar, but the Congress government of Rajasthan would also fiddle with the history of the Akbar-Maharana Pratap conflict


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Jaipur: The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan has dropped the epithet “Veer” from the name of freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The State government has made several other changes in the textbooks for schools under the Rajasthan board.

Most of these changes are in chapters dealing with historical events and personalities. The previous curriculum was decided by the BJP-led NDA government.

Reacting to the development, Supreme Court lawyer and known nationalist activist Amitabh Sinha questioned why the honorific “Pundit” should not be dropped from the name of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “On what basis could Nehru be called a pundit?” Sinha asked. Nehru was not an established scholar in any subject, he asserted.

“Or, was that an attempt to establish Brahminism?” Sinha asked, noting that there is a dispute over Nehru’s caste as well.

In 1964, the obituary of Nehru published by The New York Times branded India’s first prime minister as a “queer mixture of East and West”. Elaborating on the brand, the obituary read, “Students of Indian affairs knew Mr Nehru as a complex person, embodying the clash of Eastern and Western cultures that has complicated the attempt of countries like India to leap centuries in an effort to catch up with more advanced nations.”

Playback queen Lata Mangeshkar has taken exception to the Rajasthan government’s act of fiddling with the legacy of Veer Savarkar.

Congress’s ‘problems’ with Savarkar

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan made changes to school textbooks of the State board recently. The decisions taken by the NDA government during its term were modified in relation to historical events and personalities in the books.

The new books of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) were distributed in the market by the Rajasthan State Textbook Board (RSTB).

Recently, the Congress government had constituted a textbook revision committee in the school education department after coming to power in Rajasthan.

The committee has removed the prefix ‘Veer’ from Savarkar’s name in Class X social science textbooks and it now refers to him as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who “plotted assassination” of Mahatma Gandhi, who was killed by Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948, less than a year after India gained independence from Britain.

The freshly-printed books for the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) have been distributed in the market by the Rajasthan State Textbook Board (RSTB). The changes were made following the recommendations made by the textbook review committee set up on 13 February this year to study if the earlier changes to school textbooks were made to fulfil political interests and distort history.

The committee has included a point stating that before independence Savarkar, who was arrested in 1910 for alleged revolutionary activities, had “apologised” to the British Raj to reduce his 50-year jail term and secure clemency. He was freed in 1921 on the condition that he renounce revolutionary activities.

The changes pertain to the chapter on the freedom fighter in Class 12 history book. The new book describes how Savarkar after being tortured by British in jail, called himself ‘son of Portugal’ on 14 November 1911 and later sent out three more mercy petitions to the British.

Among other changes, a chapter in 10th standard’s Social Science book on the battle of Haldighati between Maharana Pratap and Akbar was modified. Changes were also made to a chapter on demonetisation in Class 12’s Political Science book.

A reference to ‘Jihad’ in Class 12 Political Science book was also modified. State Education Minister Govind Dostara had earlier announced that the biography of freedom fighter Vinayak Savarkar aka Veer Savarkar will be changed to adequately to depict facts “in the right manner”.

“This is a usual process for revision committee to review textbooks,” Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said but seemed not very keen to generate controversy over it at this time.

However, State’s Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasara has racked up one already by deciding to accept committee’s recommendations that delete a lot of BJP era’s inclusions. The education board will incorporate changes from the next session.

Maharana Pratap to be fiddled with next

The foremost change has been to remove the picture of a Jauhar, which Dotasara said encourages self-immolation. This removal of Jauhar and equating it with Sati, which is illegal, has annoyed Rajputs for whom Jauhar is different from Sati and was an honourable way to protect oneself from falling in the hands of enemies following a defeat in the war.

Padmini has been a well-known example of Jauhar against Alauddin Khilji, and an attempt to ‘distort her image’ in the movie Padmavat met with strong protests from Rajputs. It was the Rajput anger against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which added to the party’s defeat in Assembly elections.

Diya Kumari, erstwhile princess of Jaipur royalty, has criticised Dotasara of showing disrespect to legends. Dotasara said he would also get a text on Maharana Pratap rewritten and that Pratap indeed was great, but his experts would present facts in the right manner.

“BJP made it look like a communal battle ignoring the role of Pratap’s general Hakim Khan Suri too. Our text will inspire students from Pratap’s life story,” he said.

But the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and hardliners within the BJP have been taken aback with Dotasara deciding to include Veer Savarkar’s letter to the British seeking waiver of rigorous imprisonment. The Gehlot government may also do away with a chapter on demonetisation.

The review committee has yet to decide on how much space Jawahar Lal Nehru will get in Congress-written textbooks because the BJP government had reduced too much of the Nehru saga.

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