Karnataka to scrap anti-conversion law, reverse textbook changes

Karnataka Cabinet approves repeal of APMC Act amendments, which were opposed by farm groups; repeal Bills to be introduced in Assembly next month; lessons on RSS ideologues to be dropped from textbooks

June 15, 2023 04:00 pm | Updated June 16, 2023 12:39 pm IST - BENGALURU

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. File photo: Special Arrangement

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. File photo: Special Arrangement

Fulfilling a poll promise, the Congress government in Karnataka has announced the repeal of the State’s Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2022 — popularly known as the anti-conversion law — which was one of the most controversial legislations ushered in during the previous BJP regime. On Thursday, the State Cabinet also decided to reverse the changes made to Kannada and Social Studies school textbooks last year, including lessons on Hindutva ideologues.

The second full-fledged Cabinet meeting held after the Congress came to power last month decided to repeal the controversial Act, whose validity has been questioned in court. It also decided to repeal the BJP government’s 2020 amendments of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Act, which were opposed by a number of farmers’ groups. Both repeal Bills will be piloted in the Budget session of the Assembly starting on July 3, State Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.K. Patil said after the Cabinet meeting.

Explained | Karnataka’s anti-conversion legislation

Keeping poll promise

In its manifesto for the Assembly election, the Congress had promised to repeal all “unjust and anti people law”. While he was the Leader of the Opposition, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had reiterated several times that the anti-conversion law would be withdrawn if the Congress came to power. The controversial act had generated political and societal heat in the State, with both the Congress and the Christian community bitterly opposing it.

Changing textbooks

The Cabinet has also decided to drop lessons on RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar and Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar from school textbooks, as well as a lesson written by right-wing activist Chakravarthi Sulibele that had been added to the textbook from this academic year. On the other hand, it decided to reintroduce lessons on Savithri Bai Phule, B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru, which had been dropped.

The government will publish supplementary booklets on these topics and distribute them to children in about 72,000 schools across the State. In all, a five-member expert committee identified 45 major changes required in the Kannada and Social Studies textbooks between Class 6 and Class 10, all of which will be incorporated, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Madhu Bangarappa told journalists.

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