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
The following is a petition initiated by a group of scholars who have been centrally involved in the debate on pedagogy and the writing of textbooks that followed National Currriculum Framework 2005
We have been watching with deep dismay the events as they have unfolded on the floor of the Indian Parliament and outside. Uproar against an individual cartoon has now snowballed into a wide-ranging attack against the new NCERT textbooks. The office of one of the Advisors of the Political Science textbooks has been ransacked, the Political Science textbooks have been withdrawn from circulation, and the Government has resolved to conduct an inquiry into the role of those who sanctioned the inclusion of the offending material in the textbooks. Clearly what is at stake here is not just the life of cartoons on the pages of school textbooks.
But the fear of cartoons is not unimportant. It tells us a lot about the democracies we now inhabit. Jawaharlal Nehru told Shankar Pillai ‘Don’t spare me Shankar’. B.R. Ambedkar saw the cartoon that is now being seen as ‘offensive’. He had no problem with it. Nehru and Ambedkar, and great democrats like them, were aware of what cartoons mean. They were aware that creative cartoonists like Shankar or Laxman can encourage us to question what is taken for granted, reveal the ambiguities and contradictions of individuals, persuade us to see things in a new light. India has a long creative tradition of satire and irony. The productive power of laughter has been used not only in movements for social justice, but in children’s literature as well. If we celebrate this tradition, we celebrate democracy. Only in non-democratic countries is there a fear of cartoons. Continue reading In Defense of Critical Pedagogy: A Petition
संसद राजनीति और लोकतंत्र पर स्कूली किताबों में कार्टून नहीं चाहती है. इस मसले को लेकर संसद के दोनों ही सदनों में सारे राजनीतिक दलों में अभूतपूर्व मतैक्य देखा गया. एक राजनीतिक दल, जिसका नाम नेशनल कान्फरेंस है, इस दमनकारी बहुमत से अलग स्वर में बोलने की कोशिश करता रह गया, उसे क्रूर बहुमत ने बोलने नहीं दिया. आखिर वह एक बहुत छोटे से इलाके का था! मुख्य भूमि में बन रही सहमति में विसंवादी स्वर पैदा करने की अनुमति उसे दी ही कैसे जा सकती थी? उसे उसकी लघुता के तर्क से नगण्य माना जा सकता था. यह स्वर कश्मीर से आ रहा था जिसे भारत का अंग बनाए रखने के लिए देश के क्रूरतम क़ानून की मदद लेनी पड़ती है.
यह विवरण यहाँ अप्रासंगिक लग सकता है.लेकिन मुझे इसमें एक तरह की प्रतीकात्मक संगति दिखलाई पड़ती है. वह संगति असहिष्णुताजन्य अधैर्य के तत्व से निर्मित होती है जो हमारे सामाजिक और सांस्कृतिक जीवन को परिभाषित करता है और इसीलिए सरलीकरण की पद्धति उसके चिंतन की दिशा तय करती है. Continue reading पाठ्यपुस्तक का संघर्ष
The uproar over what is being referred to as the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ in the class XI textbook prepared by NCERT first began over a month ago, that is to say, almost six years after the books have been in circulation, been taught and received high praise for their lively style and a critical pedagogical approach (more on this below). It was a political party – one of the factions of the Republican Party of India – that decided to kick up a ruckus over ‘the issue’ – that is, the ‘affront’ to Dr Ambedkar that the cartoon in question supposedly constitutes, and the resultant ‘hurt sentiments’ that it has caused. Very soon everyone began to fall in line, and practically every member of our august Parliament was vying with one other to prove that they were indeed more hurt than their colleagues. One of them, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan has even demanded that the NCERT itself should be dissolved!
Good old Jurgen Habermas – and good old Habermasians – have always invested a lot in forums like the parliament, that are to them the hallowed institutions of ‘rational-critical discourse’ where through reasoned argument people convince each other. That is how the voice of Reason ultimately prevails in democracies. I have always been suspicious of this claim and have thought that Habermas’ empirical work on the decline (‘structural transformation’) of the public sphere was more insightful than his normative fantasies. Long long ago, his empirical work on the transformation of the public sphere showed that it was the rise of political parties that had actually destroyed all possibilities of ‘rational-critical discourse’, where organized passion in the service of immediate political interests carried the day.
Continue reading Cartoons All! Politicians and Self-Seekers