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.
The row over the cartoon — more than 60 years old — sidetracked the ongoing controversy over the Aircel-Maxis deal, which the BJP and other Opposition parties have been using to target home minister P Chidambaram.
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 Palashikar resigned 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).
The cartoon, reproduced in NCERT Class XI political science textbooks, depicts Jawaharlal Nehru with a whip in his hand chasing Ambedkar, seated on a snail, urging him to speed up work on the Constitution.
“The content is not appropriate. It is being withdrawn. I have given directions that there should be no further distribution of these books,” Sibal told Rajya Sabha. Hindustan Times had reported the use of the cartoon on April 6.
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.
In Lok Sabha, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said printing of the cartoon in the book was wrong and that he agreed with the sentiments of the House.