Mr Kapil Sibal
Honourable Minister of Human Resources Development
Government of India
Sub: NCERT Class XI Text book-Dr. Ambedkar Cartoon – reg.
On behalf of Viduthalai Ciruthaikal Katchi (VCK) – the only Dalit party in UPA- I want to submit the following for your kind consideration:
First of all I appreciate the UPA government for its quick action in appointing a committee to consider the apprehensions raised by me and other members in Parliament over the Ambedkar cartoon published in the NCERT class XI text book.
I also want to appreciate the efforts taken by UPA government to reform our educational system and the academics who were involved in drafting the NCF 2005 under the chairmanship of Mr Yashpal. The text books produced by NCERT are comparatively good. No doubt they are very helpful for the students in opening up their creativity. The text books were designed to change the ‘banking approach ‘in education and try to use classrooms to ‘conscientize’ not only students and also teachers.
But, these are not reasons for obstructing us from fair criticism of the text books. It is also a fact that we have no public forum to discuss about our text books. That’s why the delay in finding out the ‘objectionable cartoon’ in the class XI text book.
In general the book ‘constitution at work ‘is good. But the cartoon drawn by Shankar is inappropriate for the book and in bad taste. It unnecessarily orients the attention of the student to an unjust remark about our constitution. I agree, the framing of our constitution have taken almost three years. But describing it as delay is malicious. The cartoon not only ridicules Ambedkar but also our constitution. It depicts our constitution as a snail.
The great revolutionary Dr Ambedkar has explained the reasons for the ‘delay’ when he spoke at the Constituent Assembly itself. Here is the quote:
“At one stage it was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting public money. It was said to be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Is there any justification for this complaint? Let us note the time consumed by Constituent Assemblies in other countries appointed for framing their Constitutions. To take a few illustrations, the American Convention met on May 25th, 1787 and completed its work on September 17, 1787 i.e., within four months. The Constitutional Convention of Canada met on the 10th October 1864 and the Constitution was passed into law in March 1867 involving a period of two years and five months. The Australian Constitutional Convention assembled in March 1891 and the Constitution became law on the 9th July 1900, consuming a period of nine years. The South African Convention met in October, 1908 and the Constitution became law on the 20th September 1909 involving one year's labour. It is true that we have taken more time than what the American or South African Conventions did. But we have not taken more time than the Canadian Convention and much less than the Australian Convention. In making comparisons on the basis of time consumed, two things must be remembered. One is that the Constitutions of America, Canada, South Africa and Australia are much smaller than ours. Our Constitution as I said contains 395 articles while the American has just seven articles, the first four of which are divided into sections which total up to 21, the Canadian has 147, Australian 128 and South African 153 sections. The second thing to be remembered is that the makers of the Constitutions of America, Canada, Australia and South Africa did not have to face the problem of amendments. They were passed as moved. On the other hand, this Constituent Assembly had to deal with as many as 2,473 amendments. Having regard to these facts the charge of dilatoriness seems to me quite unfounded and this Assembly may well congratulate itself for having accomplished so formidable a task in so short a time.” (http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/vol11p11.htm)
This is nothing but a fittest reply to people like Shankar. I was shocked to know that even after reading this explanation our academics preferred to publish the cartoon.
In the light of the above facts I put forth the following demands:
1. Shankar’s cartoon ridiculing Ambedkar is inappropriate to the lesson. So remove it from the text book. The text book did not mention Dr Ambedkar as the chairman of the Drafting Committee. This is a clear case of suppression of the fact. I request you to mention the above fact and add a few lines about the contributions of Dr Ambedkar in drafting the constitution.
2. The problem is not with the cartoon only. There are anomalies in the texts also. So I request you to advice the review committee to look in to the texts of the text books.
3. The time limit given to the review committee is inadequate. So, I request you to give at least three months to the committee to finish its present task.
4. I see no fair representation in the committees who designed the text books. So, I request there should be a fair representation in all the committees set up by NCERT and NKC etc.
5. You aware the education is the primary tool in shaping our ideology. It is one of the ‘ideological state apparatuses’. But, there is no adequate representation of Dalits, Minorities and Women in our institutions of higher education. So, I request the UPA government to take immediate steps to provide reservation in Senates and Syndicates of our Central Universities.
6. I see a disturbing silence in the NCERT text books over the dangers of Communalism. For example in the class X text book ‘ Democratic Politics- II’ they gave about seven pages each to explain gender and caste issues but gave only two and a half pages for communalism. They did not mention a single word about the demolition of Babri Masjid or Gujarat riots. This kind of self censorship over the communalism prevails all over the text books. So, I request you to take steps to give correct picture of our society to the students.
7. Reviewing only the social science/political science text books is not enough. The ‘Thorat committee’ set up by NCERT to review the text books should be expanded and the terms and references must be widened. It must be assigned to review all NCERT text books.
8. I request you to issue a proper order to all the State governments to set up committees of academics and social scientists to review their text books.
( Thol.Thirumaavalavan )