Karela Fry

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The parliament disrupts itself again

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You, I, and any other member of the voting public may believe that we vote a member to the parliament to represent our views, and get many important jobs done. Sometimes they may have to question the government’s judgement, but that is only one part of the members’ job. We do not expect them to create a fuss even when the parliament and the government are in agreement. But, according to HT, that is exactly what they do:

A cartoon on BR Ambedkar in a government schoolbook rocked Parliament on Friday, forcing HRD minister Kapil Sibal to apologise to the nation and order the removal of the “objectionable” caricature.

Instead, members cutting across party lines trained their guns on Sibal. Hours later, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbook advisers Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palashikarresigned in protest.

The cartoon was sketched in the 1950s by celebrated cartoonist Keshav Shankar Pillai, popularly known as Shankar and recipient of a Padma Shri (1956), Padma Bhushan (1966) and Padma Vibhushan (1976).

Sibal said the decision to withdraw the toon had been taken on April 26.

The issue was first raised by Thol Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi in Lok Sabha. BSP chief Mayawati demanded strict punishment for those who allowed the cartoon to be printed, calling it an “intolerable insult” to the Dalit icon.

TOI takes the pains to point out that the cartoon was published when both the worthies who appear in it were alive:

Pranab Mukherjee sought to cool tempers by immediately decrying the reproduction as inappropriate and launching into a detailed account of how Ambedkar oversaw the writing of one of the world’s lengthiest constitutions.

Mukherjee’s erudition stopped the protests for a while but the House had to be adjourned. It was disruption twice more before the chair decided to put an end to the day’s proceedings.

Pranab Mukherjee sought to cool tempers by immediately decrying the reproduction as inappropriate and launching into a detailed account of how Ambedkar oversaw the writing of one of the world’s lengthiest constitutions.

Mukherjee’s erudition stopped the protests for a while but the House had to be adjourned. It was disruption twice more before the chair decided to put an end to the day’s proceedings.

While HRD minister Kapil Sibal scrambled to explain that a review of NCERT books had been ordered and distribution of texts stopped, academics and artists felt the protests were overblown. They pointed out that neither Nehru nor Ambedkar found the depiction objectionable and felt the NCERT book explained the context adequately. There were other sections of opinion, however, who felt sensitivities of the socially disadvantaged ought to have been kept in mind by NCERT in an age of political and social assertion.

Nehru and Ambedkar, both leaders of the freedom movement, realised that the freedom of speech (long repressed under the British) was paramount in a democracy. The parliamentarians who we unfortunately are forced to elect seem to look upon democracy as a means of their own betterment. It is entirely in their own selfish interest to use special interests to stifle free speech.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

May 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

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