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

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Ambedkar, NCERT Textbooks and the Protests

The cartoon controversy provides the possibility of interrogating the functioning of the academic system to understand its relationship with the downtrodden masses. A new deliberation is needed in order to make the academic world more sensitive and responsive towards the issues and concerns of the subaltern-oppressed communities. This will be an ethical incentive for the present-day dalit movement in India and can bring greater democratisation to the education system.

The merit of the contemporary dalit movement lies in its moral capacity to claim justice and ­fairness for the most disadvantaged sections of the society. However, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) ­textbook cartoon controversy mainly presses a “symbolic-emotive” argument without dealing with the structural norms that ­produce such controversy. The oppo­sition to Shankar’s cartoon by sections amongst the dalits is a subtle attempt to showcase the normal “disliking” of Ambe­dkar pertinent in academic circles. While there is concrete merit in such ­opposition, the aggressive protests by the dalits are constructed in the mainstream media as their opposition to the rights of intellectual creati­vity and freedom of expression.

In addition, the attack on Suhas Palshikar in Pune University by four activists of the little known Republican Dalit Panthers has been further utilised to belittle the movement as rowdy and ill-informed. At a stage when the greater influence of the dalit political movement is on the decline (the Bahujan Samaj Party’s recent election debacle in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections being an example), such trivialisation of the issue has the potential to portray the dalit movement as devoid of concrete political issues, and as infantile and aggressively lumpen in its approach.

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