Letter of Resignation from Yogendra Yadav & Suhas Palshikar, their response to the textbook controversy, and the ‘controversial’ Textbook

May 11, 2012

Prof. Parvin Sinclair
Director
NCERT

Subject: Resignation as Chief Advisers ( Pol Sc)

Dear Professor Sinclair,

We have followed the discussion in both Houses of the Parliament today regarding the cartoons published in the NCERT’s Political Science Textbooks. We also heard the Hon’ble Minister’s response to the debate in the Rajya Sabha wherein he has announced the deletion of the said cartoon, withdrawal of the textbook and institution of an independent review 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 Advisers 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.

We agree that the government must bow to the wishes of the Parliament, especially if the feelings are so strong and cut across the political spectrum. At the same time, we believe that it is our duty to point out that the parliamentary consensus unsettles some fundamental canons of democratic society.

Allow us to place on record some of the facts that we had drawn your attention to in our communication of April 3rd (attached here):

  1. The said textbook was published in 2006, has been taught since then and so far has received appreciation from various quarters; scholars, educationists and students.
  2. These books represented a new approach to textbook writing and departed from the formal and dry text of the earlier textbooks. A large number of cartoons and photographs have been used to make the books lively and interactive. Mostly these are classic cartoons of the time concerned and naturally depict famous personalities of the time, including Gandhiji, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Pandit Nehru.
  3. The cartoon on page 18 is by the famous cartoonist Shankar. This is a cartoon not done for the textbook but published at the time when the Constituent Assembly was working. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Amebdkar’s role is explained and also a quotation from his speech is given for students to better understand his approach.
  6. It may also be mentioned that the Textbook had gone through a very detailed scrutiny and finally was also vetted by a Monitoring Committee co-chaired by Professors Mrinal Miri and G.P. Deshpande. The national Monitoring Committee included among others, Professors Gopal Guru and Zoya Hasan of JNU.
  7. Before publication the textbook was also reviewed by many eminent scholars and was highly appreciated for its balanced treatment and student-friendly structure.

Given all the facts stated above, 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.

Please treat this letter as a letter of resignation and relieve us of our responsibilities with immediate effect.

In view of the larger public issues involved here, we are releasing this letter to the media. We also attach our earlier communication to you dated April 3rd which clarifies all facts of the case.

Yours

Yogendra Yadav,
Senior Fellow,
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies,
29 Rajpur Road,
Delhi 110054

Suhas Palshikar
Professor, Dept of Politics,
University of Pune
Pune 411007

Communication Dated April 3, 2012
About the controversy over cartoon in NCERT textbook of Political Science (Class XI)

Response from Chief Advisers

  1. The Textbook (Indian Constitution at Work) was first published in 2006 and so far has received appreciation from various quarters, scholars, educationists and students. This book is being taught since 2006 without change since then. The purpose of the textbook is to not only give reliable information but also to encourage students to think and seek more information on their own. From this perspective, the textbook has included many additional elements besides the text; these include dialogues by two student characters, photographs, original documents (in facsimile), newspaper clippings and cartoons.
  2. The cartoon on page 18 is by the famous cartoonist Shankar. This is a cartoon not done for the textbook but published at the time when the Constituent Assembly was working. It does not criticize or comment upon Dr Ambedkar. It depicts Dr Ambedkar as the one who is in charge of Constitution making. Since the book has include many cartoons from that era, it is only natural that those cartoons depict many leaders of that time including the makers of the Constitution.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 X textbook, it assumes the knowledge about the role and contribution of Dr Amebdkar. In Standard X textbook, on page 48, Dr Amebdkar’s role is explained and also a quotation from his speech is given for students to better understand his approach.
  5. It may also be mentioned that the Textbook had gone through a very detailed scrutiny and finally was also vetted by a Monitoring Committee co-chaired by Professors Mrinal Miri and G.P. Deshpande. The national Monitoring Committee included among others, Professors Gopal Guru and Zoya Hasan of JNU.
  6. Before publication the textbook was also reviewed by many eminent scholars and was highly appreciated for its balanced treatment and student-friendly structure.

The full text of the now controversial book and the impugned cartoon appears on page 18 in Chapter 1

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