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Outlook is trying to defend the indefensible (This Godly Delusion, May 28). Why should NCERT try to publish a 60-year-old cartoon in a textbook for children, who are innocent of the context ? The cartoon conveys Nehru as superior and Ambedkar as inferior. It would have been okay in a textbook for law or political science students, with a proper commentary. It’s definitely not school material.
J.N. Manokaran, Chennai
Politicians have deified Ambedkar to a point where it’s blasphemous to even suggest there were a few other distinguished members in the Constituent Assembly, be it Nehru, Maulana Azad, C. Rajagopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, J.B. Kripalani, Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar.
Satya Narayan, Hyderabad
Dalit activists have expressed concern—using methods that are not appropriate (rocking Parliament and ransacking the offices of Prof Suhas Phalsikar)—over the depiction of B.R. Ambedkar in an old cartoon republished in NCERT textbooks. It only goes to show we are touchy about our national icons and our politicians display extreme reactions in wooing the Dalit vote bank.
Beena Mathur, Pune
It’s a wrong notion that Ambedkar is the Constitution-maker. He was only the chief writer—then. The Constitution is still being written—through various amendments.
S.R. Prabhu, Alappuzha
Cartoons serve the role of court jesters—entertaining while raising questions and providing insight or exposing folly via jest and wit. Imagine King Lear’s court sans the Fool, or Vijayanagaram without Tenaliraman.
Sarah Hafeez, Calcutta
The hero worship of Ambedkar is the greatest obstacle to the progress of backward castes. If there’s a lack of critical writing or assessment of Ambedkar, it’s because of the fear of attacks like that on Phalsikar.
Ramesh Raghuvanshi, Pune
The cartoons in question are meant to provide students comic relief. Why object?
Mahesh Kumar, on e-mail
The cartoonist is society’s sniper—a loner who targets hypocrisy, sometimes using vinegar, sometimes vitriol. Like Birbal and other famous jesters, he is free to mock the king. He must be left so.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
Ambedkar’s second wife, Savita, was a Maharashtrian Brahmin. His whole life was focused on liberating Dalits from the caste system and from untouchability, but he had no animosity towards Brahmins.
S.S. Nagaraj, Bangalore
There’s a difference between the freedom of expression exercised by Shankar when he drew the cartoon and the freedom to choose that particular cartoon from among many for inclusion in a textbook. One is about drawing a cartoon in an unfolding, contemporary political scene; the other about choosing to show only one side of the picture. Few people know of role played by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi math in trying to influence constitution-making. It is detailed in The Ideal Prophet of our Age, an article by Agnihotram Thathachariar in the book Shankara and Shanmadha, published by Kalaimahal Patrikalaya. The writer gloats over how Article 25 and other provisions were diluted behind the scenes; this was possible only because there were three Brahmins from the Madras presidency, one from Gujarat in the constituent drafting committee.
V. Tholibangan, on e-mail
Critical learning can take place only after the basics are in place. A cartoon is an image, and like images, has strong recall value. Is it appropriate then to include cartoons in school textbooks, where ones such as the controversial Ambedkar cartoon might influence children who are yet to understand the context in which the cartoon was made and lack the critical skills needed to understand its import?
Sunil Kumar, Delhi