Following prominent Kannada writer Devanur Mahadeva’s demand on May 24 that his writings be removed from the Kannada language textbook which is part of the Class 10 SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) syllabus, several other noted Kannada writers and scholars have also insisted that their works be dropped from the school syllabus.
Kannada writers G. Ramakrishna, Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi, K.S. Madhusudhan, Chandrashekar Talya, Roopa Hassan and Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy have written open letters addressed to Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh requesting that stories and poems authored by them which are part of textbooks for students between classes 5 and 10 should be withdrawn. In his letter Ramakrishna wrote, “It is unforgivable to make children’s education a target of partisan politics and to poison young minds. In this background, I think it is appropriate that none of my texts are included in the school syllabus.”
In his short note rescinding his permission for his short story to be used in a textbook for Class 5 students, Kunhi wrote, “I request that my short story titled ‘Do Not Tell Lies’ should be discarded [from the school textbook] and another story that is in sync with the textbook revision committee’s vision be included.”
The constitution of the textbook revision committee and the controversial changes that it has proposed, including the introduction of an essay by RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar, have been severely opposed by an eclectic group of scholars, writers, poets, educational experts and activists. With the changes mooted by the committee to take effect from the academic year starting this June, protests against the changes, which have been described as “propaganda driven” and an “effort at saffronisation” by critics, have intensified over the past week.
Mahadeva’s novel form of protest was provoked by the BJP-led State government’s stubborn stand on revising school textbooks in Karnataka by appointing a textbook review committee headed by vocal Hindutva supporter Rohit Chakrathirtha in September 2021 in spite of widespread unease and resistance to the move. While Mahadeva’s text was retained, works by several progressive Kannada writers such as P. Lankesh, G. Ramakrishna, Sara Aboobacker, A.N. Murthy Rao, Shivakotiacharya have been removed.
Along with these protests, senior Kannada litterateurs such as S.G. Siddaramaiah and Hampa Nagarajaiah have also resigned from government literary bodies as a mark of their protest against Chakrathirtha. Siddaramaiah resigned from his position as president of the Rashtrakavi G.S. Shivarudrappa Foundation along with H.S. Raghavendra Rao and Nataraja Budal who are members of the Foundation. Nagarajaiah resigned from his position as chairman of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana (Foundation) citing the insult caused to the State’s anthem and Jnanpith Awardee Kuvempu by Chakrathirtha in the past.