Although Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is a symbol for Dalits, it must be understood that the cartoon which led to the generation of the debate on NCERT textbooks symbolised him as an institution, not a community. The committee headed by Sukhadeo Thorat and people opposing the cartoon have failed to appreciate that an entity can symbolise more than one thing and that it is perception that matters (“Learning from a controversy,” Aug. 3). Thus Mr. Thorat’s argument, based primarily on the sensitivity issue of the deprived, is flawed. Rather than enlightening people at large, the committee chose to circumvent the problem by taking the easiest route out. He does not delve much into the other cartoons that the committee has suggested be removed from the textbooks on the ground of “political inappropriateness.” Let us not forget that the cartoons have been borrowed from newspapers which are anyway accessible to people.
I was extremely disturbed to find an academic of Mr. Thorat’s stature defending the controversial recommendations of the committee headed by him, by giving it a caste angle in the name of “sensitivities.” Even the much talked about cartoon of Ambedkar only portrayed how he and Nehru wanted to give the required momentum to the Constitution framing exercise which was progressing at snail’s pace.
I cannot but concur with Mr. Thorat’s view that the academia is not untouched by prejudices based on caste and community. As one who has pursued education for long in a leading university, I was disappointed to see the leverage some candidates get at crucial times — in the form of small manoeuvres. This is especially true at the time of induction in research courses. A Dalit scholar is pitted against heavy odds. Despite having the potential, he faces rejection. It is time to make education at all levels truly inclusive.