Karnataka: Writer’s family clarifies Savarkar-bulbul line

Writer KT Gatti’s family has released a statement explaining their stance on the controversy over an excerpt from an article about freedom fighter VD Savarkar he authored, which was used in school textbooks for the class 8 Kannada.

The Class 8 Kannada textbook chapter, a travel diary titled Kaalavannu Geddavaru (a chapter of Gatti’s 1996 work, Nisargakanye Andaman), contained the following excerpt which became controversial: “There was not even 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 away and visit the homeland everyday.

In response to this, Gatti’s wife, Yashoda Ammembala, said, “Regarding the bulbul imagery controversy, it is obvious that this is just a metaphor. Much of the confusion appears to have been caused by the lack of context/reference in the passage, which may be due to authorial error or editorial error.

The bulbul part went viral on social media and got laughed at.

“According to informed sources, bulbuls were numerous in the area and were an integral part of Andaman prison life. Savarkar’s association with bulbuls is part of local folklore, a fact which is mentioned in Savarkar’s autobiography and a few other sources,” Yashoda said.

“We don’t know if the metaphor of Savarkar riding bulbul was the author’s creation or if it was a story he took from a book or some local source, but we can say with certainty that the bulbul image itself did not spring from the imagination of the author,” she insisted.

She pointed out that the chapter was presented as an example of travel literature. “Note that this is part of the language curriculum, not the history curriculum. Being a travelogue, it is not meant to be considered a source of historical facts,” Yashoda said.

The statement, however, claims that the family was unaware of the chapter’s inclusion in the manual until the controversy erupted. “Being indisposed, my husband is unable to clarify,” she said.

Gatti’s wife said that about 30% of the chapter contained quotes from the book ‘Swatantrya Veera Savarkar’ (Mathoor Krishnamurthy, 1966).

“Those familiar with KT Gatti’s literature are unlikely to assume that the metaphor was intended to glorify Savarkar by an admirer of his ideology, and may not need clarification on this,” the statement read.