Saffronisation charges: Kannur University forms external panel to look into postgraduate syllabus

Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinathan Raveendran
Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinathan Raveendran

Kannur: The Kannur University on Friday announced the formation of a two-member external panel to check its syllabus for the postgraduate course in ‘Governance and Politics’.

This was decided after the university came under attack from students’ organisations for including five essays on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders VD Savarkar, M S Golwalkar, Deendayal Upadhyaya and Balraj Madhok in the syllabus for the third semester of the course. The course is being taught at the Government Brennen College in Thalassery.

The syllabus drew sharp criticism from the Kerala Students’ Union (KSU) and Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF). Both the outfits marched to the university headquarters on Thursday and burned its copies.

University Vice-Chancellor Gopinathan Raveendran, while addressing a press meet in Kannur on Friday in the wake of protests, said a decision on the syllabus revision would be taken based on the expert panel’s report.

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

“We will form a two-member expert panel to study the syllabus. The two political scientists will be from outside the Kannur University. They have been requested to submit the report in five days following which we will take a decision on the syllabus revision,” he said.

Gopinathan said the suggested essays on RSS leaders are from the ‘Reader on Hindu Nationalism’ by eminent French political scientist and indologist Christophe Jafferlot. “Jafferlot’s scholarly essays will help students learn more about the growth of Hindutva forces in India,” he said.

The syllabus was drafted by an expert committee comprising 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).

The essays on the RSS leaders have been included in Unit 2 of the syllabus, titled ‘Rashtra or Nation in Indian Political Thought’. Apart from it, the syllabus 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) and Jawaharlal Nehru (Nationalism and internationalism and what is culture).

Don't glorify the RSS leaders: CM
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that while it is important to introspect and study all aspects, it was important to not glorify them (Savarkar, Golwalkar, et al.)

"Our stand is clear. We are against the ideologies and the proponents of any ideas that had turned their back to India's struggle for Independence," the chief minister said.

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

No saffronisation plan’
Gopinath said the decision to include essays on RSS leaders should not be construed as a move to saffronise the syllabus. “Post graduate students in politics should study all aspects of political thoughts. They should not be denied the opportunity to study them,” he said.

Those who criticise us, he said, forget the fact that the syllabus also recommends students to read books of Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock (right-wing activists demanded Pollock’s removal from as the editor of Murty Classical Library in 2016 after he supported the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University arrested on sedition), nobel laureate Amartya Sen and AK Ramanujan ( Delhi University withdrew Ramanujan’s book - 300 Ramayanas - in 2011 after it incensed Sangh Parivar). “We have prescribed so many books in the syllabus that were withdrawn from the syllabus of many other universities,” he said.

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 Golwarkar 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 Golwarkar 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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