“You cannot read a cartoon in isolation from the text with which it appears”

Rejecting the view that the cartoon in the Standard XII textbook, prepared by the NCERT, denigrated the anti-Hindi movement in Tamil Nadu, Yogendra Yadav, Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, argued that the “book is one of the first attempts in the history of textbook writing in India to have given due prominence to the Dravidian Movement in post-Independent India.”

“I am shocked and surprised to see that the legatees of the Dravidian Movement are objecting to the textbook. It is ironic that such an initiative is being attacked by those who should have welcomed it,” Prof. Yogendra Yadav told The Hindu on the phone from Delhi.

Mr. Yadav, one of the chief advisers of the NCERT who resigned after a controversy broke out over a cartoon on Dr. Ambedkar, said: “You cannot read a cartoon in isolation from the text with which it appears.”

Recalling the text accompanying the cartoon, “initially seen as a threat to Indian nationalism, regional politics in Tamil Nadu is a good example of the compatibility of regionalism and nationalism,” he said this text had recognised how significant and effective the anti-Hindi agitation was and the deep impact the Dravidian Movement had on Tamil Nadu politics. “I don't see how this is an affront to Tamil pride.”

Mr. Yadav said that like poetry or painting, a cartoon was a balance of several elements, and one could not pick and choose or drop one element at one's will.

“The section on the Dravidian Movement has four elements, besides the text. There is a text box on the biography of Periyar. There is a photograph [courtesy, the photo archives of The Hindu] of the anti-Hindi demonstration, which shows the depth of mass mobilisation. There is a small clipping about the opposition to the Dravidian Movement by Hindi protagonists. Finally, there is a cartoon drawn at that time by R.K. Laxman, which brings out an element of irony, which was noted by commentators at that time. The right way to look at a textbook is to ask whether all the four elements and the text, as a whole, give a fair and non-partisan description of various view points,” he said.