Agreeing that Ambedkar's cartoon in an NCERT textbook was objectionable, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today said orders have been issued to withdraw it and stop distribution of these books, and promised concrete action in the matter.
Responding to concerns expressed by members in Rajya Sabha, Sibal said the Government will also examine whether any criminal offence was made out against those who drew or included the cartoon of B R Ambedkar in the textbook.
Admitting that there were many other objectionable cartoons of political leaders in NCERT textbooks, he said his Ministry has decided to constitute a Committee of experts to look into cases of all such objectionable cartoons and remove them.
Meanwhile Sibal "apologised" over the objectionable content. He appealed to political parties not to make it an issue for vote bank politics.
"...I am willing to personally apologise for it though I was not the minister at that time in 2006. I was involved in the publication of the books," Sibal told reporters outside Parliament House.
He said there was no question of anybody trying to malign Ambedkar or anybody trying to make fun of him because that "will be against the secular ethos of our country".
Sibal said much before the issue came to Parliament, he had taken action on it and set up a committee to look at the entire gamut of cartoons in textbooks and their content to ensure material of this nature is taken out of textbooks.
"When I got information in the beginning of April, I wrote a letter to NCERT that such a cartoon should not be there as it is objectionable...On April 26, 2012, I wrote to NCERT stating that it is considered advisable to withdraw the cartoon. After this, they set up a Committee to examine this," Sibal said.
"Then I called all textbooks and found there are many other such cartoons about other leaders which are objectionable. I decided to set up a Committee to look into all textbooks and told NCERT to stop distribution of all books immediately," he said.
When asked by BSP member Mayawati as to what action the Government was taking against those responsible for inclusion of Ambedkar cartoon in textbooks and by when would action be taken, Sibal said, "Nothing objectionable about Babasaheb Ambedkar will be allowed and action will be taken so that this is not repeated."
Sibal, however, said, "it is up to the courts to decide what provisions of law have been violated," at which Mayawati asked him that the Government should move the courts and register
Clarifying that the textbooks are made by an independent textbook authority - Textbook Development Committee, which comprise academics and not officials of
Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar resigned as advisors of NCERT text book council in the wake of the row over cartoon of Ambedkar in school text books.
"Yogendra Yadav who was the chief advisor of the Textbook Development Committee and Suhas Palshikar who was the member of the committee have resigned," sources in HRD Ministry said.
Palshikar said he has quit the advisor council in the wake of the uproard in Parliament over the issue.
Sources in NCERT said they were already in the process of constitution of a new committee.
Sibal said none of the existing members of the present Textbook Committee, which had approved the book, will be part of the new Committee set up to examine objectionable caricatures.
Sibal said textbook committee will be headed by Haridev Vasudevan of Kolkata University and have Yogendra Yadav of Centre for Social Development Studies (CSDS) as its member.
He said the Government will not allow Ambedakar to be "disparaged" like this.
Observing that the cartoon in the textbook was brought to his notice by Congress MPs, Sibal said Ambedkar belonged to the nation and did not belong to one particular community or party.