This refers to the report “NCERT textbook cartoon stokes anger in Tamil Nadu” (June 9), and where MDMK general secretary Vaiko has written to the Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal saying the R.K. Laxman cartoon, in the class XII Political Science book, was a total distortion of history — the 1965 anti-Hindi agitation — hurting the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu and maligning the Dravidian movement. The floodgates have opened because the UPA government bowed to pressure in the recent Ambedkar cartoon issue. The nation faces a number of problems about which most in the political class are least bothered to solve. Their prime concern seems to be to make an issue out of none (June 9 & 10). The situation in Tamil Nadu is now entirely different from what it was in 1965. Now, private schools, after class VIII, offer Hindi as an option as the second language and thousands of children opt to learn Hindi, Sanskrit or other languages. Academicians have a tough job ahead. Apart from facing cut-throat competition in the academic field, they now have new issues to worry about, thanks to the political class.
R.K. Laxman's cartoon shows his wisdom as the substance of the cartoon stands proven by the efflux of time. The complaint of placement/recruiting agencies in Tamil Nadu is that engineering and other graduates lack soft/communication skills and knowledge in English. The difficulties faced by students scoring high marks in school examinations but failing in an engineering course is a pointer. The education policy of successive governments or, shall we say, the inevitable alternative regime has reduced the quality of education. The present remarks on the cartoon show that there is no change of opinion and a further deterioration is on the cards.
Political cartoons published in newspapers (almost everyday) and magazines do not create any controversy.
Often, the language of the report that goes with them leaves much to be desired. But, paradoxically, a similar visual in textbooks stirs up a hornet's nest as if it will have a detrimental effect on the minds of children. Do not children read newspapers, magazines and periodicals at all?
The anti-Hindi agitation, which has deprived till today scores of Tamilians the opportunity of learning the language, is one of the inglorious chapters of Tamil Nadu's political history. And it is politicians who are to blame for this. R.K. Laxman's cartoon does depict the sordid state of affairs.
That the political class in Tamil Nadu is upset over the cartoon is amusing (June 9 & 10). The agitation that was started to give life to the Tamil language ended up killing Tamil.
Can any politician in the State claim that he or she sends his or her child to government-run Tamil medium schools? I am sure most study in elite English medium schools in India and abroad. Only the common man is fooled as always and remains ignorant of the richness of other languages. Gone are the days when Hindi is viewed with suspicion. A visitor to Tamil Nadu, and the south, will not fail to notice the large North Indian workforce. In Chennai, there are times when you feel you are in the North hearing so much Hindi being spoken in public spaces.
T. Anand Raj,
Simply put, the cartoon serves no purpose other than to perpetuate a meaningless or fallacious stereotype of Tamilians in general and of those who took part in the agitation in particular.
Even if, for argument's sake, it is conceded that they lacked a knowledge of English, there is no case for supporting the cartoon, as it might be taken by the students to mean that the agitators/those who opposed the Hindi language were backward-looking, and the movement itself was a reactionary protest by those fearful of change. A student who is taught that sections of people had resisted social reform legislation during the British era is more likely to view the agitation as a conservative backlash against a progressive idea. The space could have instead been used by the authors to present a paragraph giving a sociological insight into the movement.
One wonders why textbook committees publish provocative cartoons in school/college/university textbooks. There is absolutely no need to publish them, and the students really are not in anyway benefited by these “meaningful cartoons” that speak volumes about political issues. Books should have realistic pictures of leaders, historic places and other valuable, informative visuals. The purpose of a textbook must be to educate, elevate and enlighten.
Why cannot the government appoint intellectuals with some sense of proportion and propriety who really understand the needs of students and the purpose of education? As the saying goes: “Education without character is body without head; undisciplined fire destroys, but a disciplined candle flame illuminates the place.”
The controversy is justified. I was a college student in Madurai at the time and a part of the anti-Hindi agitation along with senior students such as the personalities Kalimuthu, Kavignar Kamaraj and Sedapatti Muthiah. Our feelings against the imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu cannot be described in words. The cartoon portraying us students as anti-social elements is hard to digest. To make matters worse, we have been portrayed as being ignorant of the English language.