Govt panics as cartoon from 1949 halts House
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Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today announced removal of a cartoon made back in 1949 by Shankar from an NCERT political science textbook for Class XI after an uproar in Parliament terming it "insulting" to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar.
"For the next year, we will remove all these cartoons. But even this year, till we review the situation, the present textbooks will not be distributed," Sibal said as members cutting across political lines protested against the cartoon in the NCERT book, Indian Constitution at Work.
The minister also offered to "apologise" outside Parliament and said that he had decided to set up a committee to look into all textbooks after he "found there were many other such cartoons about other leaders which are objectionable".
The sketch by legendary political cartoonist K Shankar Pillai, who passed away in 1989, dates back to the time when the Constituent Assembly was at work, and shows Ambedkar sitting on a snail with the word 'Constitution' written on it, holding a whip. Behind the snail stands Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru holding another whip, apparently trying to goad the snail on. While the cartoon was meant to be a comment on the slow pace of the framing of the Constitution, members today claimed it could be inferenced that Nehru was trying to push Ambedkar, the head of the panel writing the statute, to hasten the process.
Trying to placate MPs, Sibal said the HRD Ministry had written to the Director, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), late last month "to withdraw the cartoon".
Among the first to raise the matter was Chidambaram MP Thirumaa Valavan Thol. "...Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru whipping Dr Ambedkar to expedite the constitutional work... it is really a great insult to both the leaders. It is a very great insult to the nation, insult to Parliament, and insult to both the leaders... So, please withdraw the book and take necessary action against the publishers," the Lok Sabha MP of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi demanded.