A group of Ambedkarites from Gujarat, earlier this week, submitted a letter of protest to the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office against “tweaking” of a slogan by Dr B R Ambedkar in a Class 5 Gujarati textbook prepared by the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks. The group demanded to restore the slogan in its original form while removing the tweaked portion from it.
Following this, Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama called a special meeting of Education Department and the school textbooks board next week to ascertain if there is an error that is required to be corrected.
The group also gave a copy of the memorandum to the offices of Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, Social Justice & Empowerment Minister Ishvar Parmar and Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama.
The slogan by Ambedkar in the context – Educate, Agitate, Organise – has become synonymous with the Dalit movement in Gujarat. In Gujarati, it is popular as, “Shikshit Bano, Sangathhit Bano Ane Sangharsh Karo”.
The activists are protesting “tweaking” of the slogan in Class 5 Gujarati textbook on Dr Ambedkar, in a chapter chapter titled ‘Bharat Ratna – Dr Ambedkar’, written by Hasyada Pandya.
A part in the chapter reads (in Gujarati), “Babasaheb nu ek sutra ganthhe bandhva jevu chhe: Shikshit bano, Sangathhit Bano, Swavlamban j Sachi Sahay Chhe (One slogan of Babasaheb is worth remembering: Educate, organise and self-reliance is the true assistance).”
Referring to the slogan in the book, the Ambedkaraites who submitted the protest letter said that the slogan in the textbook was not by Dr Ambedkar.
“The original slogan by Babasaheb (Ambedkar) is in English, ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise’. It was the motto of Bahishrut Hitkarini Sabha founded by Babasaheb in 1924. Babasaheb used this slogan in his inspirational speech addressing a meeting of All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1945,” reads the protest letter.
It said that the original slogan by Dr Ambedkar is world famous and people must have chanted it numerous times. “Any discretionary change in the slogan not only hurts sentiments of crores of followers of Babasaheb but will also be called distorted presentation of a historic truth,” reads the protest letter.
The protest letter also compared the slogan with the slogan given by Subhash Chandra Bose — Tum Mujhe Khoon do, Main Tumhe Azadi Dunga — and said, “Can we imagine a slogan like – Tum Mujhe Paisa do, Main Tumhe Azadi Dunga – in the name of our beloved leader Subhash Chandra Bose? And that too in a textbook for children?”
“The books (of school textbook board) are vetted by experts. (But) This article by Hasyada Pandya has not been vetted appropriately. The experts have not performed their duty,” said the protest letter while raising questions over the source of information behind the slogan coined in the chapter.
The Ambedkarites have also stated that historic slogans by legendary persons give inspirations to the future generations. “Such improper tampering with a slogan by Babasaheb (Ambedkar) in the textbook of Class 5 will create a false impression in the minds of children and it is not in the interest of anybody,” the letter read.
Raju Solanki, a noted human rights activist and literary figure from Gujarat, who led a delegation to submit the protest letter in Gandhinagar Tuesday said, “This is a very serious issue. It is a historic slogan given by Dr Ambedkar which has been tweaked in the textbook for children. We have to get it corrected.”
It is to be noted that the textbook was first published in 2014. And this is for the first time that an objection has been raised against it.
Solanki said, “Somebody drew my attention to this error in the school textbook. We initiated action as soon as we came to know about it. (Just because we came to know late about it) we cannot let this error stay in the textbook because its a distorted representation of a slogan given by Dr Ambedkar.”
Social Justice & Empowerment Minister Ishvar Parmar said that his office received the letter and he has discussed the issue with Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. “Yes, my office has received the letter. I have personally discussed the issue with Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. He told me that necessary action will be taken on it.”
Confirming receipt of the protest letter, Education Minister Chudasama said, “I have received the letter. And for that, I have called a special meeting of my department and of the school textbook board. If there is a mistake, it will be surely corrected.”