Suhas Palshikar correctly says that when an emotional issue erupts in the public domain, argument becomes difficult and secondary to decision-making (“Save the classroom from the political class,” May 16). The whipping up of emotions on a cartoon involving Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in an NCERT textbook led to the vandalising of Mr. Palshikar's office by RPI cadres. Shockingly, its leader justified the attack. Leaders like him do not represent the true legacy of a visionary like Ambedkar. The furore in Parliament over a cartoon that was de-contextualised by MPs displays extreme intolerance and deep insecurity of our ruling elites.
The cartoon controversy is not just about censoring a work. It is a move with long-term effects on learning in India. Creating contents for classroom teaching should indeed be left to academics. Political interference shouldn't be allowed to play spoilsport.
Cartoons are meant to give a dissenting perspective to socio-political situations. As dissent is the cornerstone of democracy, students should be taught the art of dissenting. The best way to realise this is to introduce them to different forms of dissent. Cartoon is one of them.
Reading the new NCERT books has been a refreshing experience for me. The cartoons do not impose any particular view on the students or show anyone in a poor light. In fact, they are followed by thought provoking questions and columns, encouraging students to study and analyse the ground realities.
Rohit R. Nair,
The controversy shows how intolerant, narrow-minded, opportunistic and undemocratic we are becoming by the day. If we do not respect our Constitution and its provisions including fundamental rights, there is no point in celebrating 60 or more years of parliamentary democracy. Let us not forget the democratic principle of agreeing to disagree.
By making a mountain out of a molehill, our MPs actually made the Ambedkar cartoon more famous. Even more ironic is that in a country where obscene item numbers play all day long on TV channels and where reality shows based on dating and cheating are easily accessible to children of all age groups, a 60-year-old cartoon is believed to ‘poison' their minds.
It is easy to assume the high moral ground when the aggrieved person does not belong to your community. Sixty years ago, the Dalit community had no voice to protest against atrocities perpetuated against it. The situation has changed today. Nehru standing with a whip behind Ambedkar astride a snail is anything but positive. It will sow the seeds of confusion in young minds. It gives the impression that Ambedkar was dragging his feet and needed to be prodded by a dashing Nehru to speed up things.
The life of a cartoon in newspapers and magazines is limited. People chuckle or fret but get over it in no time. But the story is different in the case of a cartoon in a textbook. What could have evoked laughter at some point of time might mean nothing to the next generation. Worse, it may convey a distorted meaning.
The cartoon under question conveys the message that Nehru was after Ambedkar to move faster in drafting the Constitution. It might have reflected the position in a satirical way at that particular point of time. But is it relevant to students today? The government did the right thing by removing it from class 11 textbooks.
B. Vinay Bhushan,
The cartoon is in bad taste and irrelevant to students. We do not know how Ambedkar reacted to it. He was magnanimous enough to protest to Gandhi in very soft words even when he christened us Harijans. Today it would be a different affair. The picture of Nehru standing behind Ambedkar with a whip gives us a feeling that Nehru was a superior intellectual compared to Ambedkar. The monumental writings of Ambedkar stand head and shoulder above the intellectual stature of Nehru.
S. Victor Albert,