New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) A cartoon on Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar reportedly printed in an NCERT textbook set off a storm in both houses of parliament Friday, with some members saying it was insulting and should be withdrawn.
The issue led to both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha being adjourned repeatedly.
The uproar in the Lok Sabha began soon after the house met in the morning.
The issue of the cartoon, which also features Jawaharlal Nehru and was published in the textbook for Class 11, was raised by Thol. Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, a Tamil Nadu-based party.
He was supported by members cutting across party lines.
As the house met for the day, Thirumavalavan raised a placard highlighting the issue and walked towards Speaker Meira Kumar’s podium.
The speaker had called for the scheduled question hour to be taken up, and asked Thirumavalavan to return to his seat, promising she would allow him time to raise the issue later.
Thirumavalavan told the house that the cartoon was “insulting to Ambedkar, Nehru and the whole nation”.
He wanted the book withdrawn immediately and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to come to the house and make a statement on it.
At one point, an agitated Thirumavalavan sought the resignation of Sibal over the issue.
Leader of House Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the issue, said the printing of the cartoon in the textbook was “totally wrong” and that he “entirely” agreed with the sentiments of all sections of the house.
He said it would not have been possible for the constitution to be ready in the short span of three years without the tireless work of Ambedkar.
Mukherjee also promised the house that he would ask Sibal to make a statement in the house on the issue.
However, the trouble continued in the house, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the house first till noon and later till 2 p.m.
The cartoon in the textbook had triggered protests in Tamil Nadu Thursday. The cartoon, by renowned cartoonist Shankar, depicts Nehru, with a whip in his hand, chasing Ambedkar, who is seated on a snail. In the cartoon, Nehru is asking Ambedkar to speed up the work on the constitution.
In the Rajya Sabha, members of the Bahujan Samaj Party raised the pitch over the cartoon row, calling it an “intolerable insult” to their icon.
Halfway through the question hour, as Sibal rose to answer a question, BSP member Brajesh Pathak raised the issue, displaying a copy of the cartoon.
Sibal offered to issue a clarification. But BSP members rushed towards Chairman Hamid Ansari’s chair, forcing him to adjourn the house first for 15 minutes.
When the house met again, uproarious scenes continued, resulting in the second adjournment till noon.
But the situation was no different when the proceedings resumed, with BSP members marching towards the chairman’s podium and raising slogans that called the government “anti-Dalit”.
They were joined by Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Ram Kripal Yadav.
With MPs cutting across party lines expressing anger over the cartoon, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, who was in the chair then, adjourned the house till 2.30 p.m.
Outside the house, Communist Party of India member D. Raja, who had given a notice to raise the issue in the zero hour, expressed surprise over the cartoon finding a place in the book and not coming to the notice of the government for long.
“It (the cartoon) is being published in this book since 2006,” Raja told IANS.
He also said that the HRD minister has assured that the cartoon will be taken out of the book.
RJD leader Ramkripal Yadav, however, said they were not satisfied with the minister’s assurance.
“Not only did this cartoon continue to be published for so long, the minister is still saying it will be removed, we want immediate action,” Yadav told IANS.
A livid BSP supremo Mayawati said the matter was “serious” and that the cartoon will not be “tolerated”.
She demanded an immediate probe to fix responsibility and strong action against those responsible for printing the cartoon in the textbook issued by the National Centre for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).