Following the submission of the report by the Committee to Review NCERT Textbooks, we had posted the full text of the Report in Kafila, along with Prof MSS Pandian’s Note of Dissent. The controversy has since continued over the report as well as Pandian’s Note of Dissent, many questioning the very term ‘note of dissent’ on the ground that he had not participated in the proceedings of the Committee. Recently Prof Sukhdeo Thorat, head of the Committee has further put this point of view in print in The Hindu which has been followed by a response by MSS Pandian.
Since we have had a long and lively debate on the matter of the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ in Kafila and the controversy seems to be continuing now in a different form, we reproduce here the links to the articles by Sukhdeo Thorat and MSS Pandian. In his piece, Sukhdeo Thorat defends the Committee’s work and presents his opinion on Pandian’s non-participation. Pandian responds in his piece raising serious questions about the way the work of the Committee proceeded from its early stages by excluding members. We present the links to these two pieces here so that readers can form their own judgement on the Committee’s work.
This is a longer version of an article published today in The Hindu. This version includes a section with illustrative examples that refute the contention of the petition that there is “inadequate representation of the role of Ambedkar” in the new textbooks.
At the end of this, I respond to the points raised by K. Satyanarayana and Anoop Kumar in their response to my article, also published today in The Hindu, to which I have linked below.
The petition against the Ambedkar – Nehru cartoon published in the Hindu makes for sad reading. Sad, because it bears the signatures of some of our best scholars, universally admired for their rigorous scholarship, who nevertheless chose to sign a petition short on facts. The petition asks the Thorat Committee to “reconsider the Ambedkar cartoon (and possibly other such insensitive material)”and urges “Kapil Sibal, the Union HRD Minister, to desist from seeking any major overhaul of the basic National Curriculum Framework on which the textbooks are based.” Perhaps the petitioners are not aware that the particular cartoon is now beyond the purview of the committee. A decision to remove it had already been taken by the Minister himself, and a commitment made to this effect on May 11 by Kapil Sibal on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. It was after this announcement that the parliamentarians intensified their attack and targeted other cartoons in all the textbooks claiming that they mocked and ridiculed the political class in general. It was in response to this outrage that the government announced the formation of a review committee to be chaired by Prof. S K Thorat to find out if there is any ‘educationally inappropriate’ material in the textbooks. Continue reading Response to “In defense of the democratic struggle against Shankar’s cartoon”
Guest post by SHARMILA REGE
Satyanarayana’s interview addresses the crucial issue of a sharp division between the dalit and the left/liberal viewpoint on the NCERT textbook cartoon controversy. Clearly, Satyanarayana’s foregrounding of this difference is not a denial of the differences between the positions taken by dalit intellectuals in this debate. Further, Satyanarayana is referring not just to responses by dalit academicians but to the presence of critical viewpoints in the larger dalit public sphere – the very perspective/viewpoints that Liberal/Left/feminists have in a sense not seriously engaged with, equating them to ‘manipulations by opportunistic dalit leadership’ or /and ‘always and already emotional iconisation of Ambedkar’. In fact, despite important differences between the arguments put forth by Satyanarayana, Gopal Guru, Anoop Kumar, Harish Wankhede, Raj Kumar and other dalit intellectuals; all of them interrogate these hasty conclusions about irrational or manoeuvred dalit publics. Gopal Guru contends that the controversy has created a field of power in which even the supporters of Ambedkar and Dalits have ended up reproducing the compounded insult through two assumptions –that Ambedkar belongs to the dalits and that dalits are pathologically emotional and thus not capable of rational independent views.
Continue reading Cartoon controversy – In conversation with Satyanarayana: Sharmila Rege
Guest post by GOPAL GURU
Let me at the very beginning make it clear that I do not want to discuss insult in the context of the recent cartoon. Although I think that a progressive interpretation of that recent cartoon may not lead to the feeling of insult and hurt.
I would like to discuss here who should feel insulted and under what subjective conditions? Those who have inherited insult from the past, not invented it for the present, are the ones who should feel insulted. The past which continues to unfold in a series of social interactions necessarily insults, and gets reproduced through rigid and regressive assumptions.
The gut level or unmediated reaction finds quick expression because those who express it know that it would yield desired reaction from the dalit community which has graduated only in thick emotionalism. Those who offered this unmediated reaction exactly had the same background assumption that Ambedkar exclusively belongs to dalits and dalits have heavy emotional attachment to Babasaheb.
This assumption is insulting for two reasons: Continue reading Foregrounding Insult: Gopal Guru
Guest post by RAJKUMAR
A harrowing monologue is in vogue in the popular media and academic forums apropos a cartoon of Dr. Ambedkar in a Political Science textbook prepared by NCERT for its Class XI students. Apparently, in the cartoon, Ambedkar is depicted being whipped by Jawaharlal Nehru for delaying the framing of the constitution. The cartoon was first published in 1949 and was drawn by cartoonist Shankar Pillai. Though in interior Dalit circles, the cartoon was being despised for denigrating ‘Baba Saheb’ as they lovingly call him, no heed was paid to their sentiments till the issue was raised in the Parliament and taken up by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. Government had to concede and the cartoon was removed from the textbook and HRD minister made a public apology for the goof-up followed by resignation of two academicians involved with the curriculum committee.
Continue reading Ambedkar’s Cartoon and the Caste question: Rajkumar
( In 2006 the Parliament had debated and lambasted Hindi NCERT textbooks prepared as part of the NCF, 2005 process . Our Parliamentarians were then offended by Premchand, Pandey Bechan Sharma Urg, Dhoomil, M. F. Husein, Avtar Singh Pash and Omprakash Valmiki. The argument of hurt sentiments had united political parties from left to right to demand action against the culprits. In the eyes of MPs like Sushma swaraj , Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sita Ram Yechury , Hindi textbooks were full of offensive and abusive words and descriptions which could hurt Brahmin, Women , Dalit and Hindu sensibilities. They were also very concerned about the the effect that these books were to leave on the impressionable minds of our children. The extra-ordinary unity seen this time in the Parliament in the case of the ‘offending’ Political science texts books is not unprecedented. What we need to ask is that why did we not react to This debate and assault on Hindi textbooks then.
Back then I had published this open letter to our MPs in Tehelka. I am re-posting it here to bring historical context to the ongoing debate on an NCERT political science textbook.)
In an open letter, Apoorvanand asks members of Parliament to stop politicising education
Do we really need to legislate on how languages should be used by our writers? Should the State be given authority to issue licenses to our poets? Continue reading Oppressing the teacher, democratic style
Guest post by AJAY SKARIA
Earlier this month, I signed, with some disquiet, onto this petition. Initiated by some members of the CHS at JNU, the petition protests against the withdrawal, in the wake of the cartoon controversy, of all NCERT Political Science textbooks, and seeks to defend the ‘gains of the new National Curriculum Framework 2005’. One reason I signed the petition was because it seems to me urgent that we try to save the NCF 2005 textbooks. They are, quite simply, amongst the most superb provocations available anywhere to critical thinking for young minds. I have over the years read them with my two children, and I would be very disappointed if other children were deprived of the same experience. There were other reasons too: I share the petition’s criticisms of the government’s arbitrary way of making its decisions about the textbooks, and its demand that textbooks be produced by an ‘academic, collective, democratic and inclusive process’ that excludes any ‘direct government intervention’. Continue reading Violence and Laughter: Ajay Skaria on the Ambedkar cartoon controversy
Guest post by PRABHAT KUMAR
I wish to intervene in the ruckus over usage of Shankar’s cartoon in the NCERT’s political science text book. At the outset I want to clarify my personal impression (although inconsequential!) of the book and the cartoon therein. I feel the textbook in general is pedagogically superior to the previous ones for it does not infantilise young students as lacking critical ability. I also believe, as Aditya Nigam has rightly pointed out, it has accorded Ambedkar the status of a leading political and intellectual figure so far ignored. The cartoon in particular, both in the context of the narrative of the textbook as well as of its production in 1949, is not attacking Ambedkar the crusader of Dalits’ rights.
Continue reading This, that and other cartoons: Prabhat Kumar
At last, the real anxieties lurking behind what has come to be called the “Ambedkar cartoon” controversy are out in the open. It is hideously clear by now that MPs “uniting across parties” are acting as one only to protect themselves from public scrutiny, debate and criticism. It turns out, as some of us suspected all along, that the “sentiments” that have been “hurt” this time are the easily bruised egos of our elected representatives.
(By the way, you may have noticed that “MPs unite across party lines” is not a headline you will ever see after a massacre, a natural calamity, brazen public acts of sexual violence against women and so on. Oh no. Such unity is reserved only for utterly self-serving and anti-democratic interpretations of “Parliamentary privilege”).*
Artist: Abu Abraham
Declared HRD minister Kapil Sibal – “Much before the issue came to parliament, I had already taken action. I called for the NCERT text books and I looked at other cartoons. I realised that there were many other cartoons that were not in good taste and disparaging in nature. They were not sending the right message to our children in classrooms”.
Continue reading Please Sir, may I take a newspaper into my class?