“These books were innovative texts that made learning of political science an interesting exercise”

As the National Monitoring Committee is all set to meet on Saturday to study the S.K. Thorat committee report that reviewed the cartoons and contents of the Class X-XII textbooks in the wake of opposition by Members of Parliament, another expert has disagreed with the final outcome of the report.

Apurba K. Baruah, professor of Political Science at the North East Hill University, who had reviewed textbooks as an expert along with 12 others, has accused Prof. Thorat of producing a ‘command report’ and totally ignoring the opinion of the experts. “I believe the experts’ report should be in the public domain,” he told The Hindu.

Just a few days ago, Prof. Arun K. Patnaik of the University of Hyderabad had also expressed his displeasure over the panel ignoring the recommendations of the experts.

Prof. Baruah had recommended removal of only three cartoons from the Class XII Political Science textbook (on Page 95 where Indira Gandhi is shown setting fire to the Congress, with a pig trapped inside. The pig is the syndicate; on Page 157 Indira Gandhi coronating Sheikh Abdullah; and on 169 Nehru telling two monkeys that years ago they lived in the jungle but that was during the colonial rule, now it has been cleared up so they should go back — it is not clear who the monkeys represent). Prof. Baruah’s report says these cartoons had the potential to be misinterpreted and their removal would not affect the books.

While the final report of the Thorat Committee has also recommended the removal of these three cartoons, or rather almost all political cartoons, it has, however, chosen to ignore other recommendations made by Prof. Baruah, which said all cartoons should be retained and these books were innovative texts that made learning of political science an interesting exercise. They prompt the students to be analytical and encourage them to apply their mind to the facts and explanations offered.

The materials presented in these books cannot be viewed as ideas sought to be taught but must be viewed as information and analyses that try to help children learn. The ideas and images produced in these books can be expected to be related to the life outside or the social reality in which children live, Prof. Baruah’s report says.

Freedom and tolerance

“The two books on democracy are excellent sources of knowledge of modern democracies and their past. They neither glorify nor condemn any event, institution practice or leaders. They give information and important interpretations already existing in the literature and critique them. The connection between the text and the context are admirable. These books keep making a major point about dignity and the freedom of the citizens,” he says.

It is good that cartoons and photographs were used to give the students a feel of the time they are studying. The caricature and the lampooning of leaders actually celebrate the spirit of freedom of thought of expression and also the spirit of tolerance cultivated by democratic politics. The controversy over cartoons that led to a review of these texts seems to ignore a fact that the cartoons and the photograph cannot be understood outside the context of the times and events they depict. The fact that Nehru, the darling of the masses, could be lampooned in a particular context in his time itself depicts the strength of Indian democracy, particularly the spirit of tolerance cultivated by these great leaders, he says.

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