Left-dominated Kannur Varsity includes Golwalkar, Savarkar books in PG course

If the intention was to critically review RSS’s political thought, then books that analyse the writings of the RSS ideologues should have been part of core syllabus,” academician Ashraf Kadakkal said

Left-dominated Kannur Varsity includes Golwalkar, Savarkar books in PG course

Ashlin Mathew

A massive row broke out in Kerala when it became known that Kannur University had included books of key ideologues of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the varsity’s post-graduate courses. CPI(M)-aligned Students Federation of India (SFI) union in the college supported the inclusion of these books in the syllabus, while students unions of Congress and Indian Union Muslim League have criticised the move.

The books, which have been included in the syllabus of a Master’s course in Public Administration at the Government Brennen College in Thalassery, are VD Savarkar’s Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, MS Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts and We or Our Nationhood Defined, Balraj Madhok (Indianisation, What, Why and How) and Deendayal Upadhyays’s Integral Humanism.

The books cleared by an expert committee were included in Unit 2 of the third semester syllabus, titled ‘Rashtra or Nation in Indian Political Thought’. The course also asks students to read works of Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism), Sri Aurobindo (Nationalism is religion), Mahatma Gandhi (Is hatred essential for nationalism), BR Ambedkar (Who constitutes nation), Jawaharlal Nehru (Nationalism and internationalism and what is culture), and Kancha Ilaiah (Buffalo Nationalism).

The expert committee members include Dr Biju Lakshman (Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam), Dr Sudheesh (Assistant Professor, Payyanur College), Dr Joby Varghese (Assistant Professor, Maharaja’s College) and Dr PR Biju (Assistant Professor, Brennen College).

Soon after the controversy flared, the Kerala Varsity vice chancellor Gopinath Ravindran said there was no need to withdraw the books of the RSS ideologues from the syllabus. “People should read the books. I don’t understand why there are protests. The ideology of these writers is being followed by those in power today, so students should read and understand,” asserted Ravindran. He maintained the inclusion of these texts should not be seen as saffronisation.

He was echoing SFI leader and Kannur Students Union MK Hassan view on the subject. He had stated that only if one reads and understands these books can opinions be made. He invited everyone to share their views on the books. Later, Hassan reversed his statement in accordance with the statement released by the SFI state committee.

However, CPI MP Binoy Viswam slammed the move and the VC’s response. He said all parties must unite against the curriculum. Congress-aligned Kerala Students Union and IUML-affiliated Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF) had slammed the inclusion of these texts in the syllabus earlier in the week. UDF representative RK BIju has demanded a revision of the curriculum.

Academician Ashraf Kadakkal pointed out that there should be a methodology followed when colleges include political philosophies which have radical or extremist content in it. “I am not of the opinion that any political thought or doctrines should be avoided. If the intention was to critically review RSS’s political thought, then books that analyse the writings of the RSS ideologues should have been on the core list,” pointed out Kadakkal.

He highlighted that Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler is included in several western universities, but not under political thought but under the category of fascism. Hannah Arendt’s ‘The origin of Totalitarianism’ is also included as a part of the syllabus in such cases.

“Such texts need to be critically read. Here, five text books pertaining to Hindutva have been included in the core area of the syllabus. The most comprehensive critiques of these texts have been written by Jyotirmaya Sharma of University of Hyderabad, but his books are not even in the reading list of the syllabus. Shruthi Kapila of Cambridge University has also critically analysed these five texts, but her writings have also not been included. So, the Kannur VC cannot argue that such texts were included for critical understanding or critical approach,” asserted Kadakkal.

This syllabus has been put together callously and without much thought, said Kadakkal, arguing that renowned professors should have been included in the expert committee if the college wanted to include these texts for the PG course.

As the criticism began to build in the state, the state higher education minister R Bindhu said the ministry had sought an official statement of the university VC. The chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan clarified that leaders who turned their backs on the freedom struggle would not be glorified. Ravindran has submitted the report about the inclusion of these texts.

“A two-member expert committee comprising Dr J Prabhash and Dr KS Pavithran has been appointed to look into the matter. We will take a stand on this matter based on their recommendation,” said the Chief Minister. Ironically, CPI(M) has been criticising BJP across the country for saffronising school curriculum and excluding chapters on secularism and democracy.

This controversy comes right after, the Central University in Kasargod had issued a circular warning its employees from giving provocative lectures in classes or anti-national statements which are against the nation. The circular stated that disciplinary action would be taken against such employees.

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Published: 11 Sep 2021, 9:40 AM