I think the media and intellectuals are blowing the Ambedkar cartoon controversy out of proportion. No doubt the attack on Suhas Palshikar's office needs to be condemned. But removing a cartoon from a textbook is not an attack on the freedom of expression. No one is objecting to cartoons in newspapers, magazines or other media.
The only question is: why have a degrading cartoon of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in textbooks? It was nothing but a mediocre, botched-up job by NCERT. Kapil Sibal has done the right thing by removing the cartoon. When a Danish cartoon stirred up a controversy, the same media did not have the guts to publish it. But they are now talking of freedom of expression.
We, Indians, have taken to deifying our leaders and cannot tolerate even a discussion on some of them (like Gandhi or Ambedkar). I am indeed surprised that the Congress is not offended by the cartoon showing Nehru as a slave-driver. Having said this, as a teacher of many years, I wonder how many students would have even noticed the cartoon unless their teacher pointed it out to them and initiated a discussion on it.
The making of the Constitution is a topic which students might like to avoid; they would probably skip the chapter. The furore over the cartoon has succeeded only in directing everyone's attention to it.
A cartoon which no Dalit in the past 60 years found offending has suddenly become disparaging to a few. This shows how miserably backward we are intellectually and in our outlook.
Although we call ourselves democratic in thought and action, we are intolerant of freedom of expression and speech.
Jawaharlal Nehru had the intellect and wisdom to appreciate and enjoy caricatures that lampooned him. Gone are the days when leaders were not peeved by satire and cartoons that criticised them.
I disagree with R. Akhileshwari (“Hardly funny,” May 15). The cartoon actually helped understand the care and time spent on making the Constitution. Pictorial representations are more attractive than text. The cartoon was only reflective of the time. It is in no way insulting to Ambedkar.
While it is true that Ambedkar did an outstanding work on the Constitution, it is also true that its making took an unusually long time. Both these were acknowledged in the same page of the textbook. It is unnecessary exaggeration of simple matters and the hyper-sensitivity of a few that have caused the unwarranted unrest. Let us uphold democracy and tolerance because that is what Ambedkar lived, struggled and died for.
Keywords: Ambedkar cartoon row