‘Savarkar flew out of jail on birds’: When school books gave the wrong lessons


If a passage from a Kannada textbook is to be believed, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar flew out of jail on the wings of Bulbul birds to visit his motherland every day. This, of course, is not the first time a school lesson has turned out to be questionable

The paragraph is taken from a travelogue called Kalavannu Geddavaru written by Kannada writer KT Gatti. . News18

There was a man who sat on the wings of a bird to fly out and visit his motherland every day. Sounds like a sentence out of a fable, right?

But surprisingly, this theory finds a mention in a Kannada textbook for students of Class VIII. And the man in question is freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The passage reads, “There was not even a keyhole in the cell where Savarkar was incarcerated. But Bulbul birds used to visit the room, and Savarkar used to sit on their wings and fly out and visit the motherland every day.”

The paragraph is taken from a travelogue called Kalavannu Geddavaru written by Kannada writer KT Gatti.

The textbook is a second-language book and is not yet available for public view. However, it has drawn criticism for “rewriting history” and “glorifying the freedom fighter”.

According to a Times of India report, the managing director of Karnataka Textbook Society, Made Gowda said that he was unaware of the content.

However, this isn’t the first time a school lesson has sparked controversy.

Let’s take a look at all the textbooks that have hit headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Getting the Indian map wrong

The cover page of a class X Central Book of Secondary Education (CBSE) French book got the Indian map wrong.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, the map did not show Jammu and Kashmir as a part of India.

The error was pointed out by Legal Rights Observatory’s (LRO) Twitter handle earlier this month. The tweet read, Hey@cbseindia29 is this true? Don’t U recognize Jammu n Kashmir as integral part of India? Or you still have leftist gang holding tight control over school book section? U r touching new heights- from Gender Confusion in kids to JK Separatism! Amazing.”

In response to this, the Board clarified that the French textbook which showed the wrong map was from an older 2014 edition and that the revised version is available on the official CBSE website.

Terrorist holding Quran

Last year, a privately published supplementary textbook sparked controversy in Telangana after it featured an image of a masked man holding the Quran. The image was labelled as “terrorist”.

A Twitter user flagged the issue by posting a picture of the chapter in question, taken out from a book called Real Life Beyond Text Book, according to a report by The Print.

The tweet read, “Some contents of a school study material [8th class, Social Studies – Real life beyond Textbook] it is clearly discriminating a person holding a ‘Gun’ in his right hand along with The ‘Holy-Quran’ in his left hand and at the bottom describing him as a ‘Terrorist’.”

The user, Shaik Aslam, further said that this humiliates the Muslim community and sends across a wrong message.

‘U for Ugly’

In 2020, two teachers from West Bengal’s East Burdwan district faced suspension after they presented the alphabet from a book that said that U is for “Ugly”. The illustration accompanying the alphabet was of a boy with a dark complexion.

The then Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said, “The book is not part of the textbooks referred by the education department. It was introduced by the school itself. We have zero-tolerance for acts which instil prejudices into the minds of students.”

The issue was brought to light by a father who was teaching his son with the help of that book.

Confusing Milkha Singh with Farhan Akhtar

In 2018, actor Farhan Akhtar who played Milkha Singh in his biopic pointed out that a Bengali textbook carried his image instead of the field athlete’s.

The actor requested the West Bengal education minister to look into the matter.  He tweeted, “To the Minister of School Education, West Bengal. There is a glaring error with the image used in one of the school textbooks to depict Milkha Singh-ji. Could you please request the publisher to recall and replace this book? Sincerely.”

Meat-eaters are untrustworthy

In 2012, a class VI CBSE textbook titled, New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises said that non-vegetarians “easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, are dishonest and commit sex crimes”.

The then CBSE chief Vineet Joshi told NDTV, “We only recommend books for Class IX onwards. Books are chosen by individual schools. There is no monitoring of the content of school books.”

The book was published by S Chand Publications which is known for printing textbooks that are used in several schools across the country.

With inputs from agencies

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