Human Resources Department Minister Kapil Sipal was forces to apologise after a cartoon on Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar printed in a school textbook set off a storm in both houses of parliament Friday, with members saying it was insulting and should be withdrawn.
The issue led to both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha being adjourned repeatedly.
The cartoon, which also features Jawaharlal Nehru and was published in the textbook for Class 11, was raised by Thol. Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, a Tamil party in the Lok Sabha. The original cartoon (above) appeared on Aug. 28, 1949 in Shankar's Weekly.
Thirumavalavan told the house that the cartoon was “insulting to Ambedkar, Nehru and the whole nation”.
Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the issue, said the printing of the cartoon in the textbook issued by the National Centre for Educational Research and Training (NCERT)was “totally wrong” and that he “entirely” agreed with the sentiments of all sections of the house.
He said it would not have been possible for the constitution to be ready in the short span of three years without the tireless work of Ambedkar.
However, the trouble continued in the house, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the house first till noon and later till 2 p.m.
The cartoon in the textbook had triggered protests in Tamil Nadu Thursday. The cartoon, by renowned cartoonist Shankar, depicts Nehru, with a whip in his hand, chasing Ambedkar, who is seated on a snail. In the cartoon, Nehru is asking Ambedkar to speed up the work on the constitution.
In the Rajya Sabha, members of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) raised the pitch over the cartoon row, calling it an “intolerable insult” to their icon.
Communist Party of India member D. Raja, expressed surprise over the cartoon finding a place in the book and not coming to the notice of the government for long. “It is being published in this book since 2006,” Raja said.
Sibal told the Lok Sabha that he had asked for the offending picture to be removed and said distribution of the textbooks had been stopped.