Eminent persons express concern at Kapil Sibal stand

Eminent persons, including Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Zoya Hasan, have expressed serious concern at the announcement by Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal that cartoons in textbooks considered ‘offensive' by MPs would be removed. They said the matter shouldn't be considered as one of mere executive discretion.

In a signed statement on behalf of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SHMT), they warned that such issues were bound to come up from time to time, and they needed to be dealt with through appropriate procedures, such as the setting up of a committee of academics.

They referred to the statement of Mr. Sibal that he was looking into some other potentially offensive cartoons, with a view to their possible removal. According to them, whatever be the merits of the case against the cartoon the matter shouldn't be treated as one of mere executive discretion, as it established a precedent that should be avoided.

The statement said that summary judgments of the ministers concerned, under political pressures of various kinds, shouldn't determine the contents of our academic syllabi.

Strongly condemning the vandalism perpetrated by a group of people in the office of Professor Suhas Palshikar, one of the advisors for the textbook, they said that such vandalism was fundamentally antithetical to the democratic values cherished by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The other signatories to the statement were Amitabh Kundu, Mushirul Hasan, C.P. Chandrasekar, Pralay Kanungo Gopal Guru, Jayati Ghosh, Ram Rahman, N.K. Sharma, Sudhanva Deshpande, Rajendra Prasad, and P.K. Shukla.

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