Muchado about a cartoon
Has the Indian polity lost its sense of humour?
American President D Eisenhower had once commented : “A sense of humour is part of the leadership, of getting along with the people, of getting things done.” The spirit of this valuable argument came alive, though negatively, when Mr Thol Thirumavalavan, a lesser known MP from a fringe political grouping of Tamil Nadu raked the issue of a cartoon picture of the father of Indian Constitution Dr B R Ambedkar published in one of the NCERT text books.
Mr Thirumavalavan must be a proud man for having rallied the entire political spectrum, of diverse shades, colours and ideologies, behind him on an issue which ideally should have been seen, discussed and debated clearly from an academic point of view. This compels one to pose a vital question: Has the Indian politics lost its sense of humour which once used to be eloquently portrayed in the Parliamentary proceedings?
A cartoon which was drawn by one of the finest cartoonist in Indian journalism, Shankar, 63 years back and a cartoon which was published in the said book in 2006. Why this sudden chest beating across the political spectrum? Is there an iota of proof to suggest that Dr Ambedkar had during his life time, at any point in time, protested against the spirit of the caricature?
The answer to the second question is an emphatic no which has already been corroborated by his grandson and former MP Mr Prakash Ambedkar. "The cartoon represented the year 1949 when Dr Ambedkar himself was alive. I have not come across an incident when he was opposed to the whole thing,” Prakash was quoted by media.
And why Baba Sahab did not take umbrage to Shankar’s work? He did not do so ostensibly because he understood more clearly the meaning of word humour. More so, he being the father of the Constitution, perhaps, was better placed to know the significance of the freedom of press which he was to, subsequently, incorporate in the Constitutional framework.
What happened in Indian Parliament on May 11, 2012 depicted another low in the Parliamentary proceedings which of late been bereft of good debates, banters and sarcasm that at times leads to reducing acrimony. Remembering Eisenhower, it seems the episode also reflects the declining levels of political and legislative leadership. The sense of humour seems to have drowned in the cacophony of mindless allegations which the political parties these days level against each other.
The self-perceived controversy involved three of the most illustrious sons of India namely Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Ambedkar and Shankar the cartoonist. It raises another question here for the political parties and their present leadership to address. Why was Shankar honoured by the successive Central Governments with three Padma awards, one after the other? And no one ever objected to it on the grounds that he had the temerity to show Dr Ambedkar in a bad light. It is simply because none of the political players of the time viewed the work of art from a purely political angel.
It is only in 2012 that the present political leadership has suddenly found it offensive. And what followed were the bizarre demands in the name of redeeming the image of Dr Ambedkar. Ban the NCERT, which was painstakingly conceived by our planners, demanded the irrepressible Dalit leader Mr Ram Vilas Paswan. Handover exemplary punishment to the authors of the book and chapter in which the cartoon figured, demanded Ms Mayawati, a dalit icon herself of the present era. She got support from almost all the political parties.
The question arises whether Dr Ambedkar’s image needs such redemption?
Little did anyone realise that personalities such as Dr Ambedkar are known worldwide through their actions and deeds in the service of the nation and the poor and downtrodden. Even if the cartoon in question is offensive, as has been suddenly realised, it could in no way have touched his larger than life image of a performer. And one is sure that the scholar in Dr Ambedkar would never have liked the idea of either banning the NCERT, the front-ranking body for the spread of education in the country, or punishing the writers and historians of eminence who have written these books.
The immediate fallout of the uproar in Parliament over controversial cartoon was that the NCERT advisors Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar resigned quickly and without seeking any explanation from them. As the Opposition parties went ballistic in pursuing their dalit agenda under the garb of the cartoon, the Government panicked and lost no time in caving in to withdraw the cartoon.
It is still not clear what, precisely, is offending about the cartoon — Nehru’s domination of the scene, or the suggestion that Ambedkar was taking a long time to complete the Constitution. It is in this context that the political parties should have devoted sometime to go through the “controversial” chapter and arrive at a conclusion rather than resorting to a knee-jerk reaction in pursuance of their narrow political agenda. The nation and Dr Ambedkar’s ideals would have been better served had Parliament invited the two authors to put forth their point of view before withdrawing the cartoon.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OPINION
NISAR AHMED THOKAR
Islamabad, May 13: The Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Muhammad Yasin Malik on Sunday said “artificial” Line of Control (LoC) dividing two Kashmirs would crumble like the Berlin Wall More
- Srinagar City
We were fed up of dog issue, says former President
DOG MENACE BUSINESS PART IV!
Srinagar, May 13: Breaking its prolonged silence, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals erstwhile top brass including the President and the Vice-President said they were so fed up of the More
Jammu, May 13: The food handlers – from chefs in restaurants to road side eateries – will have to pass a fitness test before seeking extension of the mandatory license in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu More
- South Asia
London, May 13: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that there was insufficient evidence to arrest Lashkar-e-Toiba founder, Hafiz Saeed and even if the Mumbai terror attacks mastermind More
INDO ASIAN NEWS SERVICE
Washington, May 13: India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Pepsico's India-born CEO Indra Nooyi figure in Forbes' World's 20 Most Powerful Moms list topped by US More