Kannur University in the eye of a storm over inclusion of works of Savarkar and Golwalkar and other Hindutva icons for course in a postgraduate programme

Published : September 11, 2021 20:33 IST

A major academic and political controversy has risen in Kerala over the inclusion of excerpts from the works of Hindutva ideologues such as V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyaya in the syllabus of a new paper introduced in the M.A. Governance and Politics programme conducted by Kannur University.

Even as protests by student organisations affiliated to the Congress and the Muslim League demanding removal of the controversial portions are continuing, the university has announced the constitution of a two-member external experts’ committee to review the changes in the syllabus.

The syllabus for the new course, ‘Themes in Indian Politics’, being offered only at the Brennen College, Thalassery, had recommended 11 books for study. Of the 11 books, five are by Hindutva stalwarts. There are excerpts from Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? by Savarkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined by Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts by Golwalkar, Integral Humanism by Deendayal Upadhyaya and Indianisation: What, Why and How? by Balraj Madhok.

The paper was introduced recently on the recommendation of a committee of four academics drawn from various colleges in Kerala as the Board of Studies has not yet been constituted. On September 10, Vice Chancellor Gopinath Ravindran denied allegations that the new paper was an attempt at “saffronisation of education” and said the writings of Hindutva icons were included “to enable students develop a critical understanding about various strands of Indian political thought,” the core topic of the course in the third semester.

He said the texts were meant “for PG students of Politics, not young kids” and that it was wrong to describe it as “saffronisation”. Only those who have not read the syllabus fully would make such a criticism. He said the syllabus exposed the students to the works of several other leaders and thinkers, including Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore and B.R. Ambedkar, and writings that were against the concept of Hindutva.

“JNU and Delhi University had included these texts as part of their syllabus. If we don’t read the texts of Savarkar and Golwalkar, it will be difficult for us to understand contemporary politics. A student has to read the texts and the syllabus aims to help them develop a critical understanding of the topic, though the syllabus indeed has shortcomings,” the Vice Chancellor said.

Higher Education Minister R. Bindu, on September 9, termed the development as “highly sensitive” and said that it was “dangerous” to have communal references in a university syllabus and that “if the syllabus required any change, the university would take appropriate steps. If some additions proposed are to be dropped, the university would do so," she said.

The controversy has generated diverse opinions, with one section saying that “universities should not be made a forum to promote retrograde ideas” and that it was clearly “an attempt at saffronisation of education on the pattern followed at the JNU where the syllabus was changed without the knowledge of the Board of studies”. Another section argues that students need to be “exposed to different points of view to help them form their own independent perspective”.

Governor Arif Mohammmed Khan, for instance, said that “people must be ready to study new ideas even if they are repugnant to them”. Muslim League Leader M.K. Muneer, however, said that the main issue was that “Golwalkar, Savarkar, Upadhyaya and such others have got more importance in the syllabus than Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru. In the present Indian context, when a fascist government is trying to negate Gandhi and Nehru and idolise Savarkar and Golwalkar, the syllabus gives undue importance to Savarkar and Golwalkar and less importance to Gandhi and Nehru. That is why we are demanding that a review must be conducted. When there is such a disproportionate representation, we fear that it will become a syllabus favouring the RSS.”

Earlier, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said in a brief response to the controversy that “though regressive ideas may need to be examined and studied carefully, the State Government’s view was that ideologies and leaders who had turned their faces away from the country’s independence struggle should not be glorified.”

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