Books, cartoons and judgments are being discussed thoroughly from highest bodies of liberal democracy like Parliament to constituents of public sphere i.e. print to media artefacts. Primarily, there are two standpoints regarding inclusion/exclusion of cartoons in NCERT Books (political science). Inclusionary argument is based on idea of deliverance of great service to B.R.Ambedkar while emphasising his teachings, ideas and place in the book. Exclusionary argument is based on cartoon itself which means presence of it in the text book nullifies whatsoever is being given in the name of book.
I would argue that both arguments have merit and demerit. Merits of inclusionary argument lie on two accounts. Firstly, indeed, new NCERT books (especially of political science) have more inclusionary tinge. Ambedkar has been mentioned/ elaborated relatively much more than previously. Indian Constitution at Work, NCERT XI Political Science Book, encapsulates nuanced remark of B.R. Ambedkar. His important remarks are inserted which highlight his contributions. For example, according to Ambedkar, on borrowing from other constitutions, “One likes to ask whether there can be anything new in a constitution framed at this hour in the history of the world… The only new thing, if there can be any, in a constitution framed so late in the day are the variations, made to remove the failures and accommodate it to the needs of the country.” (Indian Constitution at Work, XI Class , Chapter 1: Constitution: Why and How? , p.21 ) Regarding majority opinion, Ambedkar points out that “Those who are dissatisfied with the constitution need only two-third majority. If they are not able to obtain even that their dissatisfaction with the constitution cannot be deemed to be shared by the general public.” (Indian Constitution at Work, XI Class, Chapter 9: Constitution as a Living Document, p.203). Beneath the quotation, apt paraphrasing points out that “Ambedkar is talking here not only of parliamentary majority. He refers to sharing (of the views) by the general public”. (p.203)
Ambedkar remarks regarding social justice, “A Just society is that society in which ascending sense of reverence and descending sense of contempt is dissolved into the creation of a compassionate society” (Political Theory, XI Class, Chapter 4: Social Justice, p.63). Regarding hero worshipping, he states that “In India…hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country….But in politics...hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship.” (Politics in India since Independence, XII Class, Chapter 2: Era of One-party Dominance, p.29)
Secondly, cartoon as pedagogy is one of the important tools to determine the complexities in drawing attention of the students and building visual memories. Many child psychologists do concur with deviational tendencies of students in descriptive courses like political theory and narration of Indian nation. Herein, visual memories play a very important role. Cartoon as a teaching pedagogy for school children serves three fructuous purposes: acquainting, memorising and debating. Exhibition of complexities through sketching is almost a non-descriptive exercise. Of course, traditional pedagogues would not like emphasis through non-descriptive way of descriptive subject. The effort of NCERT Team must be lauded in this regard. Even, beneath the controversial cartoon, explanation of it is missed which says: “Cartoonist’s impression of the ‘snail’s pace’ with which the Constitution was made. Making of the Constitution took almost three years. Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact? Why do you think, did the Constituent Assembly take so long to make the Constitution?” (Indian Constitution at Work, XI Class, Chapter 1: Constitution: Why and How?, p.13). Even, in this chapter, there is another cartoon of Jawaharlal Nehru who is looking utterly confused over jana gana mana versus bande matram. Beneath the cartoons, caption reads: “The constitution makers have to address themselves to very different aspirations. Here is Nehru trying to balance between different visions and ideologies. Can you identify what these different groups stand for? Who do you think prevailed in this balancing act?”(p.7). In both cases, students are goaded to think further. Interestingly, in both cases, respective pages are full of Nehru and Ambedkar eulogy.
The only demerit comes from, despite these two tremendous attributions, inclusionary argument is their (not necessarily from authors/advisors) dismissive attitude towards argument over further debate. Despite these two tremendous attributions, the only demerit that comes from the inclusionary argument is the dismissive attitude (not necessarily from authors/advisors) towards the argument over further debate. Inclusion cannot be the basis of no-further-debate. Every community, group, individual and country as a whole have the right to debate not only descriptive subjects but also subject like commerce and business, economics and many more. Presence is not the sufficient condition for non-evaluation. In fact, debate is essential to bring forth numerous churnings. One can still argue vis-à-vis Ambedkar in the realm of NCERT Political Science books. For example, Political Theory, class XI contains ten chapters (Introduction, freedom, equality, social justice, rights, citizenship, nationalism, secularism, peace and development). Ambedkar has been once quoted in the chapter 4: Social Justice. His notion of freedom and equality is distinctly different form liberalism and like schools. He could have got much wider space in these important chapters. There should also be scope for this argument, right or wrong, that Ambedkar is present sans his philosophy. His achievements in terms of institution-building are neatly documented but philosophy is almost robbed off in terms of goading students to think ‘what to do to bring equal society’. This question remains open.
Exclusionary argument herein has only one merit that is pointing out towards cartoon. Expression is an undeniable entity or right and must be guaranteed. Progressive politics has to make difference between expression and translation of action into action by the state. Here the dilemma begins. If expression is very vital, for exclusionary argument, it is also crucial for all; here it denotes inclusionary arguments. The first fault on the part of exclusionary argument is handling out a space which exists between expression and collective progressive outcome to the state. Taking recourse to the state to translate one’s expression into action sans engagement with fellow travellers will jeopardise the cause in long run. The outcome will be alarming in two directions. Ambedkar would become recourse to curb freedom which is a zenith of irony. Secondly, progressive movements would lose their vital teeth i.e., to challenge the status quoist forces from various forms of means. Scathing criticism would be dilapidated for ‘formal’ protest.
Expression cum immediate action by the state which is not a progressive one summarily exhausts the possibility of ushering doubt. Doubt is the first requisite condition towards desired transformations. B.R. Ambedkar quotes extensively English Historian Henry Thomas Buckle’s History of Civilization in introduction of Riddles in Hinduism on issue of doubt. “It is evident that until doubt began, progress was impossible. For as we have clearly seen, the advance of civilization solely depends on the acquisitions made by the human intellect and on the extent to which those acquisitions are diffused.” (Riddles in Hindusim, Introduction, p.8) Ambedkar further maintains that “Now the Brahmins have left no room for doubt, for they have propounded a most mischievous dogma which the Brahmins have spread among the masses, is the dogma of the infallibility of the Vedas.” (p.9). Issues of what to counter and what to accentuate for countering are before progressive movement.
The second fault is the more nuanced one. Personification of Ambedkar is being attempted here. Various pontiffs were out issuing sermon to equate Ambedkar with God. Travesty comes to full circle. Ambedkar fought Hinduism diligently and reinterpreted Buddhism through dhamma principle, not from dharma principle. Turning him into an idol without engagement will be the ultimate harm to progressive movements across the globe. This is an attempt, unconsciously by exclusionary arguments and consciously by statist, to silence Ambedkar, his criticality, philosophy of doubt, mission for egalitarian world. And most important is to make his method i.e., method of constant fight a meek weapon by giving legitimacy to prophets of inegalitarian world.
Ambedkar remains a constant torch bearer of freedom of all forms. The tragedy is that he is being used by the state for further curbing the expressionist modes and unfortunate physical attack on one of the advisors and action by the state on behalf of oppressed section suo moto which was not protested substantially due to identitarian mobilisation would lead to emptying the struggle.