After a number of adjounments, the Lok Sabha was finally adjourned for the day on Friday amid uproar over the Ambedkar cartoon issue. A cartoon on Dalit icon BR Ambedkar printed in an NCERT textbook set off a storm in both houses of parliament on Friday, with some members saying it was insulting and should be withdrawn.
Speaking in the House, HRD minister Kapil Sibal apologised over the cartoon. "Even though I was not the minister (when the cartoon was published in 2006), I apologise," said Sibal. He said all such content will be removed from NCERT text books next year.
Seeking to put a lid over the row, Sibal said he has asked the NCERT to remove the offending picture and stop distribution of the textbooks. Sibal said he had
written to the NCERT in April asking it to withdraw the offending cartoon from the Political Science textbook of Class XI. Sibal said distribution of these textbooks has been stopped and a review has been ordered not just of the cartoons but also of the content of the textbooks.
The issue of the cartoon, which also features Jawaharlal Nehru and was published in the textbook for Class 11, was raised by Thol Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, a Tamil Nadu-based party.
He was supported by members cutting across party lines.
As the house met for the day, Thirumavalavan raised a placard highlighting the issue and walked towards Speaker Meira Kumar's podium.
The speaker had called for the scheduled question hour to be taken up, and asked Thirumavalavan to return to his seat, promising she would allow him time to raise the issue later.
Thirumavalavan told the house that the cartoon was "insulting to Ambedkar, Nehru and the whole nation".
He wanted the book withdrawn immediately and human resource development minister Kapil Sibal to come to the house and make a statement on it.
At one point, an agitated Thirumavalavan sought the resignation of Sibal over the issue.
Leader of House Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the issue, said the printing of the cartoon in the textbook was "totally wrong" and that he "entirely" agreed with the sentiments of all sections of the house.
He said it would not have been possible for the constitution to be ready in the short span of three years without the tireless work of Ambedkar.
Mukherjee also promised the house that he would ask Sibal to make a statement in the house on the issue.
However, the trouble continued in the house, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the house first till noon and later till 2pm.
Sibal told the House "all such offensive content" will be removed from NCERT textbooks next year.
The cartoon in the textbook had triggered protests in Tamil Nadu on Thursday. The cartoon, which was sketched by renowned cartoonist Shankar in 1949, depicts Nehru, with a whip in his hand, chasing Ambedkar, who is seated on a snail. In the cartoon, Nehru is asking Ambedkar to speed up the work on the constitution.
In Rajya Sabha, members of the Bahujan Samaj Party raised the pitch over the cartoon row, calling it an "intolerable insult" to their icon.
Halfway through the question hour, as Sibal rose to answer a question, BSP member Brajesh Pathak raised the issue, displaying a copy of the cartoon.
Sibal offered to issue a clarification. But BSP members rushed towards Chairman Hamid Ansari's chair, forcing him to adjourn the house first for 15 minutes.
When the house met again, uproarious scenes continued, resulting in the second adjournment till noon.
But the situation was no different when the proceedings resumed, with BSP members marching towards the chairman's podium and raising slogans that called the government "anti-Dalit".
They were joined by Rashtriya Janata Dal's Ram Kripal Yadav.
With MPs cutting across party lines expressing anger over the cartoon, deputy chairman PJ Kurien, who was in the chair then, adjourned the house till 2.30pm.
(With inputs from IANS)