Psephologist Yogendra Yadav and political scientist Suhas Palshikar resigned today as chief advisors of all NCERT political science textbooks,saying the parliamentary consensus (over withdrawal of a Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon from a Class XI textbook) unsettles some fundamental canons of democratic society.
Yadav and Palshikar conceded that the government needed to bow to the wishes of Parliament.
In a letter to the NCERT director after the Parliament uproar,Yadav and Palshikar referred to HRD Minister Kapil Sibals statement that the cartoon would be deleted,the text withdrawn and an independent review (done) of all such cartoons and other objectionable material in all the Political Science textbooks.
Since both of us were,and presumably continue to be,the Chief Advisors for all the Political Science textbooks of the NCERT from class IX to XII,it is only appropriate that we step aside to allow you to go ahead with the independent review process, they wrote.
In their resignation and a clarification they sent on April 3 the advisors flagged the following key points:
* The textbook was published in 2006,has been taught since then and so far received appreciation from various quarters; scholars,educationists and students.
* These books represented a new approach to textbook writing and departed from the formal and dry text of the earlier textbooks. Many cartoons and photographs were used to liven up the books. Mostly these are classic cartoons of the time concerned and naturally depict famous personalities of the time,including Gandhiji,Babasaheb Ambedkar and Pandit Nehru.
* The cartoon in question was published when the Constituent Assembly was on. To our mind,it does not denigrate Dr Ambedkar. Cartoon,like any art form,makes use of symbols and it would be a travesty of art if its symbolism were to be taken literally. It is ironic that this example has been picked up to paint these textbooks as anti-Dalit and against Babasaheb. However,the text on pages 17 and 18 amply elaborates why the making of the constitution took considerable time and what procedures were followed by the Assembly. It is also explained that deliberation and consensus were the key elements of Constitution making.
In no way does the text or the cartoon denigrate or downplay the contribution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Since this textbook is in continuation of the Standard IX and X textbooks,it assumes the knowledge about the role and contribution of Dr Amebdkar. In Standard IX textbook,on page 48,Dr Amebdkars role is explained and also a quotation from his speech is given for students to better understand his approach, the advisors wrote.
They added that the textbook had gone through a very detailed scrutiny and was also vetted by a Monitoring Committee co-chaired by Professors Mrinal Miri and G.P. Deshpande. This committee included among others,professors Gopal Guru and Zoya Hasan of JNU.
We think that the short,heated and not very well informed debate in the Parliament did not do justice to the responsibility that a democratic society has towards it future generations. While deferring to the supremacy of the Parliament we think it is our duty to dissent, they wrote.
Noted Dalit writer Kancha Ilaiah said that it would be wrong to present Ambedkar as just a Constitution-drafter. Amedkar is to Dalits what the Prophet is to Muslims. He should not be seen only as a Constitution maker,which the authors of the textbook seem to have presented him as he is fast acquiring the status of prophet for the Scheduled Castes of the country, he said.