ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ambedkar Cartoon Controversy

The attack on NCERT textbooks threatens to destroy a democratic pedagogy for schoolchildren.

The sudden, sharp attack on the class XI textbook of political science published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for carrying a cartoon which allegedly is derogatory towards B R Ambedkar has taken most people by surprise. When the issue was raised in Parliament on 11 May it was argued that the 1949 cartoon by Shankar, which had been reproduced in the 2006 textbook Indian Constitution at Work, insulted Ambedkar and humiliated dalits and should thus be removed from the textbook. However, the dalit leadership in Parliament was not content with that; Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati asked for criminal prosecution of the authors and experts who had put this cartoon in the textbook while Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan wanted the government to disband the NCERT. Thus it was clear that, from the very beginning, the cartoon was the Trojan horse to wreck the edifice of the NCERT textbooks.

The NCERT textbooks, especially for the social sciences, have been a site of struggle for some time now. The ones which were used in the 1980s and 1990s were attacked by the Hindutva forces, and when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power, the then union education minister Murli Manohar Joshi introduced a new set of textbooks which glorifi ed the Hindutva view of society and history.

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