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Ambedkar not the only politician lampooned by Shankar

May 13, 2012 08:38 AM IST Politics Politics

New Delhi: Former NCERT adviser Professor Suhas Palshikar's Pune University office was allegedly attacked and ransacked by an unidentified group over the row on the 63-year-old cartoon of BR Ambdekar. Earlier on Friday, Palshikar had quit as the NCERT advisor after the NCERT was forced to withdraw the sketch from school textbooks. This came after MPs across party lines objected and caused a ruckus in Parliament.

Sources said the cartoon used in the class XI social science textbook 'Indian Constitution at Work' was actually sketched back in 1948 by Keshav Shankar Pillai, when the framing of the constitution was on, to show how the process was slow.

But Dr BR Ambedkar was not the only politician to be lampooned by Shankar. The cartoonist hadn't spared India's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru either.

The 1949 Shankar cartoon is re-drawing boundaries of what can or cannot be said. Published in the NCERT text-books in 1986, it sparked uproar in Parliament, forcing Kapil Sibal to withdraw the cartoon. NCERT advisors Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar resigned in protest. Palshikar's office was ransacked in Pune.

But Shankar did not lampoon just Dr Ambedkar. In fact, Jawarharlal Nehru was one of his favorites. One of his cartoons shows Nehru sandwiched between cold war enemies Truman and Stalin. Another one, drawn in 1948 mocks at the family of Commonwealth nations with Nehru, at the bottom of the colour heirarchy, along with Liaquat Ali Khan and a dog.

Cartoonist Sudhir Tailang says, “Nehru, Patel, Ambedkar were all giants. This is the age of pygmies. These people today are insulting the memory of Ambedkar.”

Cartoonists have borne the wrath of those they have offended. In West Bengal, Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested, Debabrata Chakrabarty, a cartoonist with The Statesman, was dragged to court by the RSS for one of his works.

Ambedkar ensured that the Right to Freedom which includes speech and expression is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India. But freedom of expression is facing attacks!