April 7th, 2012
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NCERT to review Shankar’s controversial cartoon of Ambedkar

Ambedkar cartoon in NCERT New Delhi: The HRD ministry has asked NCERT to review Shankar’s cartoon of Baba Sahib Bhimrao Ambedkar which was published in the class XI political science text book. NCERT used Shankar’s cartoon of Children’s Book Trust which depicts the framing of the constitution as a slow process.

This cartoon which seems to portray the father of the Indian constitution in a bad light evoked the anger and discontent of the dalits. The book, Indian Constitution at Work, has a cartoon on page 18, showing Dr. Ambedkar sitting on a snail which is labelled Constitution, cracking a whip; behind him is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, also shown with a whip. The caption says: “Cartoonist’s impression of a snail’s pace with which the Constitution was made. Making of the Constitution took almost three years…”

The Republican Party of India (Athavale) had demanded a ban on a textbook arguing that it had insulted Dr Ambedkar. Mr. Ramdas Athavale held a press conference to burn copies of the page from the book for political science. He demanded the resignation of Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, who is also president of the NCERT board.

Mr. Athavale said the cartoon insulted the architect of the Constitution, and those responsible for the act must be dealt with. In defence NCERTofficials said they used the cartoon to ask the students what the cartoonist Shankar was trying to say. For this, two questions were asked in the text with the cartoon — Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact and why do you think, did the Constituent Assembly take so long to make the Constitution?

“Reproducing the cartoon is no less insult than demeaning a statue of Dr Ambedkar. It is unfortunate that sensitivity of 17 % of the population have not been kept in mind by the NCERT,” said Dr Yagati Chinna Rao, associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru’s School for Social Sciences.

Dalits have also felt hurt at the chapter one of the book – Indian Constitution at Work — depicting Ambedkar as critic of Congress and Mahatma Gandhi for not doing enough for upliftment of scheduled castes. The chapter also says there was “dispute between Nehru and Sardar Patel over many issues”.

The NCERT officials wondered why the controversy has suddenly erupted as the textbook on Indian Constitution was introduced in 2006. Officials, however, admit that there was some recent revision in the books.


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