M A I N   N E W S

Ambedkar cartoon row rocks Parliament
Govt stalls distribution of NCERT’s Class XI text book as Dalit MPs create ruckus
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, May 11
After Dalit leaders created a storm in Parliament today over a Class XI political science textbook featuring an allegedly offensive cartoon of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Government said it had ordered withdrawal of the cartoon and stalled further distribution of the book “Indian Democracy at Work”.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal gave this assurance in both the Houses after leaders led by BSP chief Mayawati accused the Government of insulting Father of the Constitution Dr Ambedkar and demanded removal of the cartoon and action against those who allowed its publication.

Mayawati wanted the Government to register an FIR against the “guilty” — a demand which Sibal addressed saying it was for the courts to see if certain sections of the law had been violated. DMK members were also in the Well of the Houses, seeking resignation of Sibal. The entire Opposition, including the BJP, wanted the Government to respond to concerns over insult to Dr Ambedkar.

On the defensive, HRD Minister said on learning about the cartoon on April 26, he advised the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) to withdraw it as it was offensive.

“On April 26, 2012, I wrote to the NCERT stating it is considered advisable to withdraw the cartoon. They set up a committee to examine the matter. Then I called all textbooks and found there are many other cartoons of leaders which are objectionable. I have now set up a committee to look into all these textbooks. The NCERT has been told to stop distributing these books till that time,” Sibal said.

Earlier, as soon as the Lok Sabha assembled, the issue was raised by Dalit activist Thol Thirumaavalavan, the Lok Sabha MP who heads the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) of Tamil Nadu, where protests were staged over the row. Thirumaavlavan stormed the Well saying the cartoon, showing Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru whipping Dr Ambedkar to speed up the process of drafting the Constitution, was an insult to both the leaders and the nation.

“While we are celebrating the 60th year of Parliament this Sunday, we are insulting Dr Ambedkar. The minister

should own responsibility for this cartoon and resign,” he said, seeking action against the publishers.

Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee tried to assuage the sentiments of leaders by saying the cartoon was totally wrong and Ambedkar was “Ved Vyas of Indian Constitution without whose tireless efforts the biggest Magna Carta of socio economic transformation would not have been possible to achieve in a record time of three years.”

Unimpressed, the protesters — the VCK, the DMK and the SP — trooped into the Well and forced two adjournments. The Rajya Sabha was similarly adjourned amidst demands by the SP, the BSP and the DMK of withdrawal of the cartoon with Mayawati asking Sibal what action the Government was taking against those responsible and when such action would be taken.

“Nothing objectionable about Babasaheb Ambedkar will be allowed and action will be taken so that this is not repeated,” Sibal said, adding that by 2013, all objectionable content featuring political leaders would be removed from textbooks.

The cartoon

  • The cartoon is in the Class XI political science textbook in circulation since 2007
  • Created in 1950s by Shankar of Children's Book Trust, it shows Dr Ambedkar on a snail and Pt Nehru wielding a hunter, prompting the former to hurry up
  • The NCERT reproduced it with a pedagogic purpose in a chapter discussing the making of the Indian Constitution





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