Tag Archive for NCERT

Let Humour Remain in Indian Public Life: PUCL

Cartoon Controversy PUCL

PUCL (Rajasthan) protests against the removal of the Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon from the textbook stating that it is not objectionable by itself and that the text gets students to question cartoonist’s presentation of the “snail’s pace”

By Team FI

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan branch has issued a press statement expressing shock over the uproar in the parliament and subsequent removal of the cartoon of Nehru and Ambedkar from Class XII School text book. The issue was raised by Thol Thirumavalavan of Liberation Panthers Party, Tamil Nadu  in the Lok Sabha on last Friday. He was soon joined by politicians cutting across party lines. Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal apologized over the “objectionable” content and told the media that he has directed removal of the material and stoppage of distribution of books. Here is the statement from PUCL;

The PUCL, Rajasthan branch and other intellectuals in the city are shocked at the unnecessary controversy created by a section of the Indian Parliamentarians with regard to  the cartoon of 1949 on Nehru and Ambedkar, on the pace of the making of the Indian Constitution, made by the eminent cartoonist Shankar Pillai and published in the Standard XI Political Science Text Book of the NCERT. What is extremely disturbing is the manner in which education minister Mr. Kapil Sibal apologised in Parliament and conceded to the demands of these Parliamentarians by stating that he has directed the NCERT to remove the material and stop the distribution of books. Not stopping there, he also stated that he had taken action by setting up a committee to look at the entire gamut of cartoons in textbooks and their content to ensure material of this nature is taken out of textbooks, before the next session.

We are absolutely certain that there is nothing objectionable in the Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon by itself and the text presented with it if at all is extremely laudatory of the hard work and democratic process that the constituent assembly had adhered to under the leadership of Sh. BR Ambedkar. And the question asked of the students in the context of the cartoon actually is getting students to question Shankar’s presentation of the “snail’s pace” represented. We would like to ask whether parties have really read the text with the cartoon or is it merely criticising to appease the Dalit vote bank which they represent.

In the past also texts have been deleted and books have been tampered with, and people have had cases filed against them merely in the name of upsetting public opinion. It is important to know that the endeavour of education is not to indoctrinate the minds of the young or teach them any one ideology. According to us the primary objective of education is to create a quest for enquiry and learning to think. Providing diverse points of view becomes essential to the educational process. Education essentially means having openness towards all points of views and also the young must know that there are many dimensions to any issue.

We all are well aware that both from the point of view of content and presentation the NCF 2005 and the books that were produced by the NCERT were a milestone in the history of education in India.  These books are also of high quality,  hardly seen before in our Government schools. These books create a questioning and critical mind in the children.  In terms of pedagogy these books are extremely innovative.

The PUCL strongly condemns the move of tampering with the content of these books and in particular the decision of removing the cartoons from the books, this needs to be opposed strongly.


Cartoon Controversy: Who’s laughing?


The country needs several years of cartooning by Dalits to be ready for Shankar’s cartoons on Ambedkar. NCERT should have commissioned a contemporary cartoon reflecting people’s expectations, joys and angst about the constitution today

By Veena Shatrugna

It is unfortunate that some progressive organizations and intellectuals are protesting against the controversy created by the Indian Parliamentarians on the BR Ambedkar-Nehru cartoon in the NCERT text book of Standard XII. Drawn by Shankar in 1949, the cartoon depicts Nehru, with a whip in his hand, chasing Ambedkar, who is seated on a snail.

To begin with, the cartoon is irrelevant in today’s context. And yes, it does show Dr.B.R Ambedkar in very poor light. It should be noted that the Dalit icon was not found anywhere, not even acknowledged, in the school and college texts till the 90s, and now that he is visible, he is caricatured on top of a snail.

The explanation in the accompanying text to the cartoon does not counteract it sufficiently. The text provides reasons for delay in drafting the Constitution – the need for drafts to be circulated and consultations with sub committees. The cartoon however stands in contradiction to the text. Did Shankar not know that consultations were necessary?

This upper caste impatience is ironic considering that Dalits have waited for centuries for change to happen and even today the Constitution must be coaxed to work for the marginalized.

One must also question whether a political cartoon done over 60 years ago makes any sense today with or without the text. Cartoons have to be topical, their shelf life is limited -unless you are studying the history of humour.

Let us also not arbitrate that the Dalits do not appreciate humour. That was the weapon used against feminists long ago – the accusation that feminists usually do not ‘get the point or the humour’”.  How would anyone expect us to laugh at the jokes that degrade us as women?

In my family (Punjabi refugees from West Punjab) there is no space for any frivolous mention of the partition. Despite the fact that there is usually an overdose of Punjabi rustic humour otherwise. You mention the word partition and everyone is silent. It would take a long time for us to joke and laugh about it.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

How do you expect the Dalits to switch onto a humour mode, because ‘they must get on with life, or that the texts were put together by such eminent men and women or that the caricature was drawn by a legendary cartoonist’?

The country needs 20 to 30 years of cartooning by Dalits to be ready for Shankar’s cartoons on Ambedkar. It would be good to know when exactly Nehru learnt to laugh at himself – notwithstanding his elite background, his exposure to western liberal thoughts. Maybe it was after those thousands of cartoons which depicted him as the darling of the masses.

Let us not treat textbooks as if they were holy scriptures. Just because the textbooks were written after much deliberation, it does not mean that errors do not creep in. In a young democracy like ours, texts and textbooks should be updated/reviewed every 2 to 3 years.

Instead of taking a short cut, NCERT should have commissioned cartoons which reflects people’s expectations, joys and angst about the Constitution today, and there are plenty of examples, (even if we ignore Anna Hazare) where women, dalits, tribes, minorities, LGBT, to name a few, are struggling to make the Constitution work.

Veena Shatrugna is a medical doctor by training and is the former Deputy Director, National Institute of Nutrition. She is a member of Anveshi, Hyderabad.

Related reading: Cartoons All! Politicians and Self-Seekers