Are we becoming increasingly intolerant?


Another Cartoon is under the hammer of our intolerant society. This time it is an old cartoon which when published 60 years ago did not raise any eyebrows. Cartoon of the famous cartoonist Shanker was reproduced by NCERT in it’s much appreciated Class 11 text book. Now it has been made controversial by vested interests and was ordered to be removed by Education Minister. Unfortunate thing is not only RPI (the supposedly pro Dalit party) but MPs of all political parties (from Left to Right) were united in getting it removed.
The cartoon was shown to highlight the time taken to write the most voluminous Constitution of the World. The text below it explains that each clause was deliberated at length by the members of the Constituent Assembly, amended rejected or approved as per majority opinion in a most democratic and reasonable way.
The cartoon only depicted the newly independent Country waiting impatiently and expectantly for the most important document ever produced in India.
Now a Parliamentary committee has been formed to look into all NCERT Text books.
While teaching my daughter I was always amazed at the quality of NCERT Social Sciences text books of recent years. The high calibre was the result of team effort of a large number of people. Will this intolerance see an end to good quality learning materials for our students?
The intolerance of our MPs to such harmless cartoons is a shame for World’s largest Democracy

Related articles
Kafila post
History of drafting of Indian Constitution


6 thoughts on “Are we becoming increasingly intolerant?

  1. It’s been pointed out by some that perhaps even Dr. Ambedkar himself wouldn’t have objected to such depiction, which may well even be true.

    My feeling: what you point out indeed is true that the cartoon depicts the slow pace with which the Constitution was developed (for the right reasons, perhaps), but there’s a point you might’ve missed: to me it appears to be depicting Dr. Ambedkar to be **subservient** and answerable to Nehru, which mostly apart from being factually incorrect, also appears distasteful to me.

    But, let me go a step ahead: should (subjectively, of course) distateful & offending material be allowed in ‘public life’? Yes, of course! But, that should be more a case in matters of ‘personal opinion’. A textbook does not fall in the domain of personal opinion (Ambedkar being subservient to Nehru). A textbook, that too in a way ‘endorsed’ by the Government, in my opinion, should be devoid of personal commentary to the greatest extent possible. That drafting the Constitution took three years is a ‘fact’, so allowed. But, three years were “too long”? That’s personal opinion, so for me gets contentious.

  2. But yes of course, ransacking an office & harrassing the NCERT officials is not done. That kind of violence & intolerance is certainly not acceptable. We Indians need to learn to laugh at ourselves more, but a Nation’s ‘official’ textbook need not be an effector of such change.

    • Ketan,
      Thank u for ur comment.
      I do not know whether u r familiar with the current series of Social Science Text Books of NCERT. There are several cartoons posters and fictional situations depicted in them for discussion purposes. After viewing the cartoon the students are asked what they think is the cartoonist trying to say. Here some students may say it shows Ambedkar subservient to Nehru. Then the teacher can initiate a discussion about the issues involved. Nehru was impatient, most ppl were impatient including Ambedkar but it took lot of time due to differences of opinions and the post partition turmoil.
      The books also depicts cartoons and comic strips showing many ppl ( doctors,clerks, ministers, workers, voters democracy, police etc) in a bad light. Should we ban all such cartoons in text books? That is ridiculous.
      Social Science text books should discuss many opinions and help the child to find out his own.

      • Shankar’s cartoon and the arguements against its removal from the textbooks fail to understand one thing…that is, what the act/metaphor of whipping could imply in the context of a society which had treated certain
        castes in a slavery-like situation. Replace Ambedkar and Nehru with a black and a white leader in the western context, then it may become little more clear to the Indian intelligentsia who does not otherwise see the connections.
        I think, let this cartoon be out of textbooks till the times when Indian teachers themselves are sensitive enough to the history of caste oppression in this country.

      • Jenny,
        Welcome here. What will you say if there was a foot note under the cartoon like this…..
        ‘do you think this cartoon also reflect the casteist oppression prevalent in India?’
        With such a question added this cartoon becomes a much more valuable teaching tool.

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