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’

Why so many former pinups in the Indian parliament?

Jason Overdorf writes in his column On India in the globalpost:

Doordarshan, kept showing Jaya Bachchan’s face during the induction of fellow former Bollywood starlet Rekha. Rekha was always rumored to have a thing going with Jaya’s husband Amitabh back when they were all stars.

India has the world’s worst famous people. They want all the adulation (and perks like unmerited posts in the government), but none of the “baseless” rumors, malicious gossip and catty remarks. But this has been a particularly good spring for schadenfreude.  

First, there was a long-running bit of journalistic comedy (yes!) after the Indian Express devoted the entire front page to a non-existent coup.  (I know, I know: “We never used the C word!”… tell it to your lawyer).  

Then everybody piled on to attack a rather clever, 60-year-old political cartoon in a stunning show of solidarity with India’s otherwise-mostly-still-despised erstwhile untouchables, the Dalits. (It shows B.R. Ambedkar, the Dalit politician who wrote India’s constitution, riding on a snail labeled “Constitution” while then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru urges the beast onward with a whip.  The trouble is now it’s in the school textbooks, and people have decided it looks like Nehru is whipping Ambedkar, even though the Dalit leader is also holding a whip).

And, finally, today Bollywood queen bee and member of parliament Jaya Bachchan (wife of Amitabh Bachchan, mother of Abhishek Bachchan, mother-in-law of Aishwarya Rai, and an actress in her own right) reportedly blew a gasket because the state-run television channel, Doordarshan, kept showing her face during the induction of fellow former Bollywood starlet Rekha into the Rajya Sabha as well.  (The honorable members of India’s version of the House of Lords later denied that Jaya made a fuss).

….The subtext here was that Rekha was always rumored to have a thing going with Jaya’s husband back when they were all stars. In all likelihood there was nothing to it, since Bollywood’s idea of PR is to leak rumors of such “link-ups” between the stars of upcoming releases.  

Tell it to Shekhar Gupta, the once respected editor-in-chief of the Indian Express, who also seems determined to trash his own reputation. … For awhile some folks tried valiantly ….. But in the end it all turned into a big joke, which long-time Outlook magazine editor Vinod Mehta described as “the mother of all mistakes”…

Are Indians oversensitive? Was Nehru really that skinny? Why are there so many former pinups in the Indian parliament? Why are Bollywood rumors always “baseless”? ..And, of course, should newspaper editors really be fighting against free speech?

Read the full column in globalpost: Oversensitive Indians: From Jaya Bachchan to Shekhar Gupta, everybody is aggrieved

Indian Democracy: Spare Us..Spare Us…!

I can not but help observing that the subject cartoon of 1949 was published at a time when Shri. Babasaheb Ambedkar was very much alive and active in the solemn work of framing the constitution and that he himself must have had a hearty laugh at the caricature and did not take offence. As such, the comic act of our parliamentarians seething in anger at the vintage cartoon even while the affected person Shri. Ambedkar himself was not moved to anger in his time by the cartoon could itself be a subject matter of a new cartoon for the fraternity of cartoonists.

Kesava Shankara Pillai popularly known as Shanker or Sanker had drawn that cartoon way back in the year 1949! The e ‘so-called’ controversial book in which the cartoon was reproduced was published as long ago as 2006! But no one objected then, probably because in was taken in the right spirit…as it should be! To wake up now and rake it up as an issue to pound shows a mean streak of intolerance!

In India we make a mockery of everything -be it democracy, constitution, parliament, government, ..name anything! No doubt every incidence makes us cartoon characters and folds in the eyes of the World at large! The intolerance of political class for an innocuous cartoon which no way denigrates Dr.B.R.Ambedkar whilst the Indian parliament is celebrating its 60th anniversary smacks of hypocrisy and parochialism. It is surprising that even Kapil Sibal, the habitually self asserting and belligerently protective spokesperson of government issues, irrespective of merits, meekly submitted to the ‘across the board’ misdirected criticism; perhaps lost his steam sequel to the continuous failure of his government and the Congress party in recent times and the most recent, Dr.Singhvi’s disgrace, could have shaken him. Cartoons in school text books are certainly a novel idea, as thought provoking, funny visuals contribute to stimulate the young inquiring minds as to their meaning; therefore the subject is better understood and retained in the mind. This approach deserves appreciation. The argument that the cartoon could be misconstrued by the 11th standard schoolchildren who read the textbook is bogus and an insult to their intelligence.

It is laughable to see an utterly inoffensive cartoon being used to create a controversy. Most of the politicians in India are devoid of any worthwhile convictions and have zero intellectual content. It is strange that not a single one of them came out against the controversy. Really, it’s a pity to see our nominated parliamentarians squabbling instead of debating and solving issues that hinders the progress of society.

In cartoonist Shanker’s days  when cartoon was king,  appreciation of the art of lampooning through the tip of the pencil took a front seat… aided , abetted and encouraged by no less a person  than Panditji (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru) himself ..He even used to scold   our cartoonist high priest, albeit in fond terms,  when the latter slackened on his lampooning act, saying “Don’t Spare Me Shanker” !

The cartoon incident has happened even as our celebration of sixty years of our Parliamentary democracy is on. Many citizens are worried by the way our politicians surrender to muscle power, whether it is of caste or money. If only they all had debated to make sure that all the government schemes are implemented properly, India would have been a really developed country. In school I learned that diversity (in language, religion, etc) is one of the greatest plus points of India. Now I realize that this diversity is nothing but a complex social structure which provides fuel to a massive number of inconsequential political issues. Our democracy is essentially thriving on the randomness generated from such a complex social system.

Today  Shanker would be turning in his grave, whimpering: “Spare Us..Spare Us..!”

In fact that is  precisely be our cry too…as we bemoan the state of things today!

Cartoonist Shankar, the legend of Indian cartooning

Keshav Shankar Pillai: The man behind ‘Ambedkar-Nehru cartoon’

The NCERT (National Council Of Educational Research And Training) school textbook cartoon of Dr BR Ambedkar  and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru which created a furore in parliament was sketched by renowned cartoonist Keshav Shankar Pillai, popularly known as Shankar.

Shankar sketched the said cartoon in the 1950s while the Constitution of India was being framed.

Shankar (31 July 1902-26 December 1989) was  born in Kayamkulam, Kerala, considered as the father of political cartooning in India, founded the publishing house, Children’s Book Trust, in 1957.

He made number of cartoons for newspapers and magazine, in addition with his magazine, Shankar’s Weekly.

The government of India honoured him with Padma Shri in 1956, Padma Bhushan in 1966 and Padma Vibhushan in 1976. In his honour, the Government of India released two postal stamps 1991.

He is remembered for setting up Children’s Book Trust established in 1957 and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in 1965.

Shankar’s wife name was Thankam. He had two sons and three daughters. He also published an autobiographical work, ‘Life with my Grandfather’, 1953.

Noteworthy, the said cartoon shows Ambedkar seated on a snail with ‘Constitution’ written on it and Jawaharlal Nehru, whipping the snail with crowd in the background. (courtesy: Dainik Bhaskar)

Oldest Indian Parliamentarian Rishang Keishing says, It was so quiet and peaceful then!

For Rishang Keishing (92), the world of Indian Parliament had opened up through the window of a train. After getting elected from Manipur in the first Lok Sabha in 1952, it took four days for him to reach Delhi. He is the oldest parliamentarian in India.

“I had to board an overcrowded train to Delhi at Katihar. The police somehow pushed me inside it through a window,” Keishing, now a Rajya Sabha member, recalls.

For the first time, the man from Bungpa Khunou village saw India beyond Assam.

“I was awestruck when I entered Parliament. I entered the Lok Sabha and saw stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad sitting across me. I had only seen their pictures in newspapers. I thanked God for the day,” he tells HT.

Three other MPs of 1952 Lok Sabha are alive: Resham Lal Jangade (Bilaspur constituency), Kamal Singh (Shahabad-North-West) and Kandala Subrahmanyam (Vizianagaram). But they are leading retired lives.

Keishing is politically active and his memory remains razor-sharp. He recalls his first meeting with Nehru: He spotted the Prime Minister in the Parliament corridor and called out to him. The Prime Minister turned back. Keishing asked if some emissaries of Zapu Phizo (the secessionist Naga leader) can meet him.

“No, No, No” Nehru snapped back and questioned why a handful of Naga leaders refuse to accept India’s authority. Keishing, a die-hard Indian nationalist, hit back: “Why are you shouting at me? I have just come to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

“Nehru followed me and caught me by my arm after a few minutes. He said they should first meet the home minister,” Keishing recalls.

His closest association was with Indira Gandhi. Keishing, then a minister in Manipur, came to meet her and she said, you become the chief minister.

“I said I belong to a small tribe and she replied, ‘In democracy, the size of your community doesn’t matter. What matters is the confidence of people’.”

After his first Rajya Sabha term, Keishing requested Sonia Gandhi to let him retire.

“Soniaji threw a dinner party. After dinner, I walked up to her to say goodbye. She told me, ‘you are re-nominated. Now you rush back to Imphal to file your nomination papers’.”

The biggest regret of the MP is, of course, the deteriorating standard of parliamentary practice.

“It was so quiet and peaceful. Today’s disruptions don’t help much,” Keishing says.