The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has questioned the depiction of Tamil poet Subramania Bharati or Bharathiar wearing a saffron turban on the cover of the state board’s Class 12 General Tamil textbook, The Hindu reported on Tuesday. Images of Bharathiar usually show him wearing a white turban.

“When has anyone seen Bharathiar with a saffron turban?” asked Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLA Thangam Thennarasu, who was the former school education minister. Thennarasu called the illustration part of a “subtle attempt to saffronise textbooks”. “This is an attempt to subconsciously give students a different image of Bharathiar.”

The General Tamil textbook was released by School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan along with Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation Chairperson B Valarmathi in Chennai. Sengottaiyan was unavailable for a comment, while Valarmathi rejected the claim that the illustration of Bharathiar was an attempt to saffronise education.

“This is a state government-issued textbook and there is no question of politics or religion in education,” Valarmathi said. “It could be a genuine mistake. If it is so, it will be looked into and sorted out.”

The illustrator claimed the image of Bharathair depicted the tricolour of the Indian flag. “No intention to change the colour of Bharathiar’s turban from white to saffron,” Puthiyathalaimurai quoted the illustrator as saying.

An unidentified government schoolteacher said this was first time Bharathiar was shown wearing a saffron turban. “I have been teaching Tamil to students for long and have never seen any image of Bharathiar with a saffron turban,” the teacher said. “His turban has always been white.”