The six-member panel constituted to review the cartoons used in social sciences textbooks of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has ordered the deletion of several cartoons and words that it says are either “ambiguous”, negative or show politicians and bureaucrats in an ‘incorrect way.

Among the material that gets the chop:

an R.K. Laxman cartoon from the 1950s showing Nehru telling France and Portugal (represented as monkeys, in the context of the demand that they leave Pondicherry and Goa) that ‘I admit years back you were living happily right here when this was all a colonial jungle… but we’ve cleared it now and built a decent house! So you must quit!’ (“Cartoon may be deleted. No politician or institution may be represented as animals”)

a Surendra cartoon from The Hindu showing babus blocking the RTI (“may be deleted as it is not a correct interpretation of the role of the bureaucracy”)

a Huffaker cartoon from the U.S. called ‘One-Party Country’ showing a porcine tycoon with the Senate, presidency and Supreme Court in his pockets (“may be deleted because politicians and institutions are represented as animals”)

an R.K. Laxman cartoon showing a beggar holding a bowl out to a garlanded Indira Gandhi (“may be deleted — being politically sensitive)

in a cartoon describing two Emergency-era notions — “Put simply, committed judiciary and committed bureaucracy means that the judges and officers should be loyal to the ruling party. What a pity!” — the panel says “What a pity!” should be removed.

a Shankar cartoon called ‘Kicking upstairs’ showing Nehru using his foot to propel a politician up into a building labelled ‘Governorship’ (“may be deleted as it conveys a sense of ambiguity”)

The panel’s 40-page report was submitted to the government on June 27. Its terms of reference were to identify educationally inappropriate materials and provide alternative suggestions for the six textbooks in Political Science. One member, M.S.S. Pandian — who said he found nothing objectionable in the books — has issued a dissenting note.

Justifying the proposed deletions, the panel majority headed by S.K. Thorat says in its report: “They [authors] may have reasons to believe that the cartoons used were not offensive but only reflected commonly perceived notions. In a society as vast and as diverse as India is, there can always be room for different understanding of the text and interpretation of visuals, and especially cartoons could be viewed differently by different segment of society. It is more so when multiple sensitivities get involved. The sensitivities, genuine or perceived, have to be taken note of and addressed carefully.”

Calling for wider consultation and feedback in the future, the panel said the “best way for that can be pre-testing of texts and visuals in different setting such as rural- urban and various types of schools, discussion with different religious minorities and ethnic minorities, involvement of teachers and faculty from different social and religious background in textbook development, periodic updating, improving and redressing objections in an appropriate academic manner.”

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