Ramdas Athavale held a press conference on April 2 and burnt copies of the textbook's page

The Republican Party of India (RPI) Athavale group has been demanding a ban on an eleventh standard text book by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) saying a cartoon in the book insulted Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The textbook was published in 2006, but no one seems to have noticed the cartoon till recently.

On April 2, Mr. Ramdas Athavale held a press conference and burnt copies of the page from the text book prescribed in the political science syllabus. Mr. Athavale demanded the resignation of Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal who also is the president of the NCERT board. RPI workers burnt his effigy.

The cartoon figures on page 18 of Chapter one titled “Constitution, why and how” in the book called Indian Constitution at Work. It shows Dr. Ambedkar sitting on a snail which is labelled ‘Constitution' cracking a whip. Behind him is Pandit Nehru, also shown with a whip. The caption says: “Cartoonist's impression of the ‘snail's pace' with which the Constitution was made. Making of the Constitution took almost three years. Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact? ...”

“An insult”

Mr. Athavale said the cartoon insulted the architect of India's Constitution and the people responsible must be dealt with. The NCERT too had insulted him, he pointed out.

The introduction to the book says “This book is about the working of the Indian Constitution. In the chapters that follow, you will read information about various aspects of the working of our Constitution. You will learn about the various institutions of the government in our country and their relationship with each other.” The chapter contains various cartoons, even one of Pandit Nehru trying to balance the varying opinions on the Constitution.

The issue created uproar in both Houses of Parliament.

NCERT chief advisors Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar resigned on Friday after the government issued an apology and promised to remove the cartoon.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Palshikar said it seemed like the government didn't have an option and therefore decided to agree with the protesting MPs. “The caricature was a symbol of the progressive outlook in education. This has now been undone. We are of the opinion that as advisors we can have a different opinion. Hence, we don't think it's appropriate for us to be in this position anymore.”

Mr. Palshikar is a Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Pune.