‘Bulbul flight’: Textbook chapter on Savarkar makes Karnataka govt blush

BJP leadership is irked that this has become a weapon for the Congress to further attack Savarkar, especially when the Sangh Parivar has been looking to celebrate its leader

VD Savarkar
The ruling BJP government is in a fix now, especially since it is singing VD Savarkar’s peans in mission mode across Karnataka.

The committee headed by Hindu ideologue Rohit Chakratheertha has been dissolved, but the textbook controversy started by it has spelt never-ending trouble for the ruling BJP in Karnataka. 

Now, a Kannada textbook for Class 8 of the state syllabus has a chapter on the ‘sacrifices’ of VD Savarkar. It describes how Savarkar flew on the wings of a bulbul bird to visit his motherland India when he was imprisoned in the Andaman cellular jail.

While this was widely trolled on social media, it has also attracted the wrath of RSS and BJP leaders, who are said to have expressed their unhappiness to Primary Education Minister BC Nagesh. The BJP leadership has been sharply critical of the ‘irresponsible textbook committee’, which is said to have hastily replaced another chapter (‘Blood Group’, by Vijayamala Ranganath) with the Savarkar one without checking the content closely. 

The BJP is irked that this has become a weapon for the opposition Congress to further attack Savarkar. Especially since the Sangh Parivar has been looking to celebrate Savarkar. The textbook controversy could not have come at a more inopportune time for the Basavaraj Bommai government in the state.

Also read: BJP targets Siddaramaiah as ‘Savarkar Chariot’ makes its way across districts

Genesis, a travelogue

The chapter on Veer Savarkar

The text is taken from a portion of a travelogue by a popular Kannada writer KT Gatti, titled Kalavannu Geddavaru (‘Those who won the time’). The passage describes the author’s visit to the Andaman cellular jail, where he describes Savarkar’s life in the prison.

The text on Savarkar for Class 8 reads… “In the room where Savarkar was imprisoned, there was not even a tiny keyhole…bulbul birds visit the prison cells, Savarkar would sit on the wings of bulbul birds and fly to his motherland (India) every day.” Savarkar was imprisoned in the Andaman jail between 1911 and 1924. 

It was meant to be a metaphor, say Karnataka government officals, but that is not immediately apparent. School teachers have complained that explaining a person’s travel on a bulbul from a jail is rather difficult when the audience consists of 12- and 13-year-olds.

Detailing Savarkar’s life

Talking about Savarkar, the chapter says the Hindu right wing leader was given life imprisonment by the British twice. It also describes some tough situations that he faced.

KT Satyajit, son of KT Gatti, in a social media post, said: “The words posted as a pic below are written in the book by my dad in his travelogue of Andaman called Nisargada Kanasina Kanye Andaman‘. He quoted those words from another book called Swatantrya Veer Savarkar by Mathoor Krishnamurthy, published in 1966.”

He added that the disputed lines were not his father’s per se. “My dad did visit Andaman extensively and wrote about the jail and a few freedom fighters. The text, however, by no means should be taken as an endorsement of Savarkar’s ideologies. It is merely a description of his days as a jail inmate,” he stated.

Also read: Veer Savarkar had sown seed of Partition: Chhattisgarh CM on BJP blaming Congress

However, this portion of the textbook is now trending on social media. The ruling BJP government is in a fix now, especially since it is singing Savarkar’s peans in mission mode across the state. It is using Hindu idealogue to counter the Congress’ claim to the freedom movement, and has even launched a Savarkar chariot yatra to spread ‘awareness’.