21 political cartoons will be deleted from Indian school text books, new cartoons to be ‘tested’ first on students

Most cartoons used in political science textbooks now have been borrowed from R K Laxman and Shankar’s work in newspapers.

The Thorat committee that reviewed NCERT textbooks has not only recommended the deletion of 21 cartoons but also laid out criteria for what kind of cartoons the textbooks should have. It has suggested among various things that the cartoons should largely stick to conveying a positive message to students, focus on themes rather than personalities, and be first “tested” on students for their reactions to ensure they are not insensitive.

The committee has said that instead of borrowing cartoons from newspapers and other secondary sources, original ones must be created strictly for educational purposes. Most cartoons used in political science textbooks now have been borrowed from R K Laxman and Shankar’s work in newspapers.

Anubhuti Vishnoi  writes in a special story in The Indian Express:

Stressing the need for a positive message, the panel has recommended that if a cartoon with a negative implication has to be necessarily used, it must be balanced with a positive-message cartoon on the same subject.

The recommendation against focus on personalities follows the offence taken by MPs at cartoons on Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and a range of other political leaders from A B Vajpayee to Lal Bahadur Shastri and B R Ambedkar. The committee has recommended that the cartoons instead look at broad themes and issues.

Sources in the NCERT said the report suggests cartoons in textbooks must first be “tested” on students and their reactions assessed to ensure that there are no “unintended consequences”. Sensitivities must especially be kept in mind as responses to cartoons may differ depending on a student’s profile, his background, religion, class, caste and habitation, it has said. The committee has also advised against “overuse” of cartoons.

Read the full report in Indian Express : ‘Unfit’ cartoons out, here’s what is ‘fit’

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What is Arundhati Roy’s problem, “truth”?

Colin Todhunter writes in column titled ” Looking In The Mirror, Living In Denial: The Arundhati Roy Effect” in Countercurrents.org about problems with Arundhati Roy, that her critics acknowledges the fact that what she says and writes the true motives and intent underlying official policies. That, she is a Malayali/Bengali and it has always been fashionable to take an opposing view and that she is merely playing to a western media that are always looking to paint the India in a poor light.

Arundhati Roy holds up the mirror and forces people to look. Picture by Richard Avedon

Arundhati Roy’s recent 6,000 word article in India’s Outlook magazine in March contained a wide ranging critique of US foreign policy, capitalism, imperialism, globalisation, India’s industrialisation and the nation’s various internal conflicts and numerous other matters. All the things she has become noted for. Predictably, it provoked the kind of personal attacks that Roy has become accustomed to.

You either agree with Roy’s overall analysis, or at least parts of it, or you do not, and it’s always interesting to read critiques of Roy’s stance based on logical argument. Those who try to counter Roy in this way at least respect her views enough to spend time critiquing them. There are many, however, who like to leave logic aside and concentrate on Roy the person, stridently attacking her motives, psychology and personality.

What is it about Roy that elicits such bitter reactions, especially from within India and particularly in upper middle class circles? Such responses confuse personal prejudice, character assassination and sniping with critical analysis. Notwithstanding that no one can ever be right all of the time, it could well be that there is nevertheless a good deal of truth in what Roy says on various matters, and perhaps that’s the problem.

If her arguments are too black and white then show it. If she leaves little room for nuance then discuss it. If she is playing fast and loose with facts, challenge her. Instead, what we too often have are outbursts that have little to do with the issues themselves, but with Roy and what some consider her to be.

There are the accusations that say she merely plays to a western audience that buys her books, she is a self publicist or that her writings display some sort of personality deficit in terms of her constant attention seeking. While it may well be the case that there is a certain underlying misogyny inherent in some of the personal attacks, the question remains as to why do so many ordinary people in middle class households get so fired up over her.

Anti-establishment figures in all countries have always been vilified by newspapers, TV channels, politicians and opinion leaders. And ordinary folk often follow suit. Noam Chomsky experiences it in the US and journalist John Pilger has also had to bear similar establishment backed wrath in the UK. Roy is as terribly anti-India as Chomsky is as single-mindedly anti-US, so the warped line of reasoning from officialdom and its cheer leaders goes.

Most of the time, the writings of such figures delve beneath the rhetoric and propaganda to highlight the true motives and intent underlying official policies. Their arguments, however, too often become buried beneath personal criticisms and smear campaigns which set out to undermine them as people and by proxy their analyses. Why deal with uncomplicated truths that challenge officialdom when they can be brushed aside or attention can be diverted from them with abuse?

As far as Roy is concerned, the smears against her take many forms. She has writer’s block, so she seeks the limelight by jumping on the latest cause celebre. She’s not an expert – others in a given field have been working for a cause for decades and never get the column inches she gets. She is Malayali/Bengali and it has always been fashionable to take an opposing view. She is merely playing to a western media that are always looking to paint the India in a poor light.

And don’t forget that she doesn’t really understand the plight of the poor or oppressed. How could she choke on the stench of poverty or oppression with such a big silver spoon filling her mouth?

India doesn’t need Roy to tell us what we already know, does it? We don’t need such a celebrity activist with prosaic writing to tell us how to put things right? India has thousands of hands on community activists and workers who are making a real difference every day.

Such is logic of the anti-Roy brigade.

Looking at onself in the mirror can be a painful process, especially when the mirror is, like India, not as shiny as you were led to believe. Roy holds up the mirror and forces people to look. It is then that the gap between the poor and violently oppressed and the self congratulatory ‘new’ India of AC shopping malls, gated communities and all manner of conspicuous displays of luxury which the Indian upper middle classes cherish so much becomes too unbearable to accept. So what better response than denial? What better reaction than to vilify the messenger?

Could it be that Roy makes many feel too insecure? Could it possibly be that living in denial helps suppress the guilt that would gush forth if people were to acknowledge that a terrible price is being paid for an urban-chic lifestyle built on squeezing the life out of much of India via population displacement, land grabs, highly exploited labour, environmental degradation and state backed violence?

You don’t have to be living in the gutter before you are allowed to express a valid opinion on poverty or oppression. And if you have a message, it would be foolish not to use your talent to reach out to as wide an audience as possible. But maybe that’s part of the problem. For some, holding up a mirror to Indian society is bad enough, but Roy has the ability to project a realistic yet unpalatable image of India across the globe. With all their new found wealth, that’s what seems to annoy her critics most. When you strike at a raw nerve, unthinking, knee jerk reactions usually follow.

Colin Todhunter : Originally from the northwest of England, writer Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). His articles have on occasion also appeared in the Kathmandu Post, Rising Nepal, Gulf News, North East Times (India), State Times (India), Meghalaya Guardian, Indian Express and Southern Times (Africa). Various other publications have carried his work too, including the London Progressive Journal and Kisan Ki Awaaz (India’s national farmers’ magazine). A former social policy researcher, Colin has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Disability and Society and Social Research Update, and one of his articles appears in the book The A-Z of Social Research (Sage, 2003).

Incredible India: Andhra teachers asked to ‘train’ students in abuses

Imagine a teacher writing filthy abuses on the blackboard and explaining their meanings to students.

Shocked? This is exactly what schoolteachers in Andhra Pradesh are being told to do. A handbook designed by the state government to train schoolteachers has a peculiar chapter that has left teachers blushing.

This chapter suggests that they should make students list out women-specific filthy words or abuses, generally used as slang in society, and explain their meaning.

The offending chapter in question, Discrimination in culture”, says: ‘List out such words and ask students to write them down along with their meanings. Explain why most of these vulgar words are related to sex of women, their chastity and doubting their fidelity. Tell the students whether such gender abuses are there in other countries, too and what they are.’

The handbook, which was distributed among teachers at a training programme across the state recently, basically deals with gender discrimination in society and how teachers should educate their students on eradicating this evil.

It was prepared with the support of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Rajiv Vidya Mission (earlier Sarva Siksha Abhiyan) programme and Jana Ganam, a voluntary organisation.

The handbook states the chapter’s objective was to make students understand why discrimination against women in the socio-economic fields has been reflected in culture.

Several teachers at the training programmes expressed the view that though the handbook was designed with a good objective, it will be highly embarrassing for them to talk about vulgar words.

‘It is ridiculous. How can we mention vulgar abuses before students, leave alone telling them to write them down and explain their meanings?’ G. Rama Devi, a state teachers union member, said.

Senior teacher L. Ravinder Rao said those who designed the chapter might not have taken the teachers’ sensitivities into consideration. (courtesy: A. SRINIVASA RAO  & MailOlineIndia)

Rabiya: An iron woman who changed the history of Kerala

K.V. Rabiya lived on alphabets and words and so through the educational light which she had set for her people, she will live forever.

Vellilakkadu, Tirurangadi: “The Kerala society always looked at and the media hyped me as a literacy mission crusader but they always took care to turn a blind eye towards the inspirational role of Islam behind my activities, the role of Islam in ‘the making up’ of me was never discussed and now I need to do something desperately to convey ‘the right message’ out of my life. I feel I am nearing death, so visualising my life in a documentary – well in lines with my dreams and ideas – is an important and urgent task before me”, says KV Rabiya.

A documentary ‘Charitram Sakshi, Rabiya ennennum Jeevikkunnaval’ is intended at carrying out Da’wat by portraying her life, which she has tried to live according to Islamic principles, she wanted that the documentary should be directed by a non-community member, having an affinity and willingness towards Islam. She was fortunate enough to find such a director in Suresh Iringaloor, and the documentary is under way.

“I believe it is the passion to release this documentary, which still keeps me alive despite all these life threatening diseases I am subject to”, says Rabiya.

Beginning of the mission
Born handicapped to Kariveppil Moosakutty Haji and Allipara Biyyachutty Hajjumma, Rabiya had her legs weakened by Polio, but this couldn’t stop her from going to school, with immense passion, she read books aloud, thus wiping tears off her parent’s eyes. As she reached the Pre Degree level, when she was seventeen, being unable to stand sound on her weakened legs, she had to stop studies. Unlike most others who would weep over their fate, Rabiya started living a meaningful life thereafter. She was not ready to blame her destiny nor did she shed a single drop of tear. She started taking tuition classes to her neighbouring students and this indeed was the start of a big leap in her life as well as the history of Kerala. It was such efforts by Chelakodan Aishumma, Khadeeshumma and Rabiya, that initiated the complete literacy mission in Kerala.

She joined the literacy mission as a temporary instructor and took the Vellilakkadu village by her hand to the magical world of letters. Even her mother and grandmother learnt letters from her and literacy units across the state came to know about the complete literacy achievement of Vellilakkadu village. Rabiya was of the opinion that mere literacy rate won’t be sufficient enough for the development of her region, so she emphasised on the need for getting engaged through jobs.

Development of Vellilakkadu village
With complete support from the villagers who were mostly potters by profession, she set up cottage industries, a publication group called ‘Chalanam’, vocational training programmes, tuition centres, village libraries, a school for the mentally retarded and deaf students, discussion and debate rooms, inter family get together, family counselling centre, reading promotion club, blood donation team, small investment plans and pain and palliative campaigns. Along with Rabiya, Vellilakkadu village was thus entering a new phase of development. The income from ‘Chalanam’ publications made her financially self sufficient and was able to meet the needs of those dependent on her.

Awards
The awards and recognitions which she received were numerous. She even won the UN international award in 2000. The other awards and recognitions which she received were Nehru Yuva Kendra Award [1992], National Youth Award [1993], Bajaj Trust award [1995], Ramashram Award [1996], Karunakara Menon Smaraka Award [1997], Jaysees Zone Award [1998], MSS Ahmed Maulavi Smaraka Award [1998], Junior Chamber International Award [2000], The central govt’s first Kannaki Sthree Shakthi Award, Kuwait Tahira Award [2000], IMA Award [2002], Yuva Kala Sahithi Award [2003], Kerala Handicapped Social Service Organisation Award [2004], Murimattathil Bava Award [2004], Star Friends Creation Literary Award, Riyadh [2006], Nahdi Malayalam Association Award [2007], Bhaskar Foundation Award [2008], Mahila Tilakam Award of the Kerala Social Welfare Ministry [2012].

Though in wheel chair, Rabiya involved in every spheres of the village life and had thus set an example for the whole state. She married her cousin brother and Rabiya was the second wife. Fate had a few more harsh games to play with her life as she was diagnosed with cancer when she was 32 and had her left breast removed as part of the treatment. When she was 34, she accidentally slipped in bathroom and damaged a few spinal nerves which almost dumped her into an inactive phase of life for years.

During those bedridden days she wrote a book named ‘Ente Mauna Nombarangal’ [my silent grievances] and after publishing it she was feeling tensed as she feared that the world might misunderstand – this book – as her life. The book reflected her state of mind and it was full of grievances. So she later wrote an autobiography named ‘Swapnangalkku Chirakukalund’ [dreams has wings] and was published by Lipi publications. The Kerala govt has included a part of her autobiography in the fifth standard Malayalam text book.

Now Rabiya is 46, her liver and kidneys are not functioning well, her words are not that crispy and continuous because of memory loss but her unending passion to serve others has now forced her to make a Documentary on her life and her village.

Documentary on her life and village
The documentary ‘Charitram Sakshi, Rabiya ennennum Jeevikkunnaval’ is intended at giving a message to the victims of fate so that they could stay bold despite physical challenges. “Since times everybody focused on portraying me as a literacy worker, so my other works and things which I had to convey to my society went unnoticed. My literacy works were just another part of my social service efforts. Every similar ventures which accompanied the literacy alleviation attempts, too was out of the ideal set by my prophet Muhammed [SAW]” says Rabiya

Talking on the relevance of her documentary she told TCN, “The inspiration indeed was Islamic values and the reward from the Almighty; so portraying my life by making use of the possibilities of visual media, I believe is a far more efficient form of Da’wath [invitation to Islam]. So by my life, the educational and social services I undertook, I have tried to practically live as a Muslim and now I feel this should stay as a source of inspiration for the world even after my death. Besides I would like to introduce my villagers and lot other good hearted comrades before the world, so that their lives could make more people interested in undertaking educational and social causes”.

“I am not sure whether I would live until its completion and not sure whether I could pay out the debt of around 15 lakhs spent on the documentary film before my death, as I have produced the film on my own. Another 10 lakh rupees is required to complete the rest visualisation, dubbing, editing, brochures and advertising. My Director Suresh Iringalloor has done justice to my dreams and ideas regarding this documentary, and we hope to telecast it in the Samasta EK Sunni owned channel, Darsana TV as episodes, within a few weeks” said Rabiya.

Married life
The feminists, intellectuals and writers favouring west have always attacked Islam over topics like Polygamy. I was married as the second wife to my cousin brother. By portraying my married life, the documentary has a role to prove regarding the purity of Polygamy; even in the present day world. The first wife was indeed possessive over him but what else would make a wife happy than the husband’s words like “Rabiya is the greatest asset in my life”, asks Rabiya. He was kind enough to give a life and wipe tears of a weakened, marginalised lady by accepting me as his wife. Polygamy in his life, Rabiya believes was not different from what is said in the religion. Understanding the emotions of first wife and husband, their married life, she believes if portrayed could be an ideal justification for Polygamy in Islam.

She always tried to hold intact family relations and her husband’s first wife too was not different and this she says as how said in the Holy Quran will bring Allah’s blessings and thus prosperity in to one’s life. She believes this was the only reason why she is able to meet the needs of her family members dependent on her, even in this bed ridden state.

She hopes that her documentary with its English subtitles would travel across the world and would take a blow at writers like Taslima Nasreen, keen on attacking Islam baselessly.

“It is a fact that people within the community are misusing such provisions within Islam, but that doesn’t mean such rules within the religion are to be discouraged and writers like Taslima should have the least sense to distinguish what is said in Islam and what it is now being practised by the vested interests within the community”, said Rabiya.

She will live forever
The profit from the documentary if any, after paying out the debts will be used for setting up a trust called Rabiya Foundation Trust. The trust is intended at supporting the sidelined and victimised lives of the society by continuing those educational and palliative services, she hopes.

Rabiya is proud as she quotes the recently demised, Kerala’s most eminent intellectual and literature giant Sukumar Azheekode who once said that, “The Pope of Catholic Church, Vatican might have easily stepped on to the procedures of canonizing and proclaiming Rabiya as Saint, if she was born a Christian”.

She considers her people’s affection, encouragements, criticisms and their respect for being the teacher who made them learn letters, as the biggest achievements in her life. Thus she is able to forget her physical pains on being loved and respected by her dear ones.

Rabiya lived on alphabets and words and so through the educational light which she had set for her people, she will live forever. (courtesy: Abdul Basith MA, TwoCircles.net)