Now, Kannur University faces allegations of ‘saffronisation in education’, VC refutes charges

Kannur Unviersity
Members of KSU burn copies of the syllabus of MA Governance and Politics course (PG) at the Kannur Unviersity on Thursday. Photo: Sameer A Hameed

Kannur: A political controversy is brewing in Kerala over the inclusion of the works and thoughts of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologues VD Savarkar, M S Golwalkar and Deendayal Updhyaya in the syllabus of a post-graduate course in Kannur University.

Activists of Kerala Students Union  (KSU), the students’ wing of the Congress, and Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF), the students’ wing of the Indian Union Muslim League, burned the copies of the syllabus on the campus on Thursday.
The Students Federation of India (SFI) has not yet reacted to the incident.

The course is being taught only at the Government Brennen College at Thalassery in Kannur district, the alma mater of many CPM leaders including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The programme was launched in November 2020.

Both KSU and MSF alleged that the decision to teach right-wing ideologies in the syllabus was part of a Sangh Parivar agenda to saffronise education in India. They charged that the Kannur university too fell prey to Sangh’s devious plan.The students also organised a protest march to the University headquarters.

Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinath Raveendran, however, refuted the allegations. He said he could not understand the trigger for the protests. “Those who read the syllabus will not protest like this. They should learn more,” he said.

He added that students would learn what Savarkar and Golwarkar said only if they read their literature. “I don’t understand why the protesters are demanding not to teach them,” he said.

The issue
An expert committee that drafted the curriculum recently renamed one of the core subjects - Contemporary Political Theory - to be taught in the third semester as ' Debates in Indian Politics’.

The expert committee justified the renaming as the programme needed more ‘governance’ components.

“Contemporary political theory has already been debated in three papers in the first, second and third semesters. The vice-chancellor, after considering the matter in detail, accorded sanction to modify the syllabus,” stated a circular from the university, released on August 17.

The controversial portions have been included in Unit 2 of the syllabus, titled ‘Rashtra or Nation in Indian Political Thought’.

It asks students to read works of Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism), Sri Aurobindo (Nationalism is religion), Mahatma Gandhi (Is hatred essential for nationalism), B R Ambedkar (Who constitutes nation), Jawaharlal Nehru (Nationalism and internationalism and what is culture), V D Savarkar (Who is Hindu? - extracts), M S Golwarkar (We or Our Nationhood Defined, chapter - 3 and extracts & Bunch of Thoughts - the internal threats, Christians, Communists - extracts), Deendayal Upadhyaya (Integral humanism, pages 18 to 30, 31-39, extracts), Balraj Madhok (Indianisation, What, Why and How) and Kancha Ilaiah (Buffalo Nationalism).

Dr Biju Lakshman (Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam), Dr Sudheesh (Assistant Professor, Payyanur College), Dr Joby Varghese (Assistant Professor, Maharaja’s College and Dr P R Biju (Assistant Professor, Brennen College) are the members of the expert committee.

The expert committee was tasked with the syllabus preparation as the university does not have a postgraduate board of studies for the subject.

PR Bjiu said the expert committee has included the works of all eminent personalities who shaped Indian political thought. “We have included the works of all eminent personalities, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. It is not just RSS ideologues,” he said.

protest march
Police block a protest march of the members of KSU to the Kannur University on Thursday. Photo: Sameer A Hameed

What protesters say?
Youth Congress state vice-president Rijil Makkutty and the KSU leaders at the Government Brennen College first raised the issue on Tuesday alleging that the revised syllabus gave prominence to Golwalkar and Savarkar while trivialising the thoughts of Nehru and Gandhi.

The reverberations of the controversy were felt in the University Senate meeting on Wednesday too with the United Democratic Front representative Dr RK Biju demanding a curriculum revision. However, the vice-chancellor said the resolution would be considered in the next meeting.

“The revised syllabus gave prominence to Hindutva leaders such as Savarkar and Golwalkar compared to our freedom fighters. The vice-chancellor refused to consider my resolution in the Senate meeting. This is an example of the clout Hindutva proponents enjoy in our educational institutions,” he said.

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