WE the undersigned are concerned that Kapil Sibal, minister for human resource development, made an ex cathedra announcement, that the cartoon in the Class XI text book, found offensive by several members of parliament, would be removed, and that he was looking into other potentially offensive cartoons with a view to their possible removal.
Whatever be the merits of the case against the cartoon, the matter should not be treated as one of mere executive discretion. This establishes the kind of precedent that should be avoided. Such issues are bound to come up from time to time, therefore appropriate procedures have to be followed, such as the setting up of a committee of academics to look into each case, so that summary judgments of the ministers concerned, under political pressures of various kinds, do not determine the contents of our academic syllabi.
We strongly condemn the vandalism perpetrated by a group of people in the office of Professor Suhas Palshikar, one of the advisors for the textbook. Such vandalism is fundamentally antithetical to the democratic values cherished by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar for which he is justly revered by all Indians.
The signatories are:
Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Zoya Hasan, Amitabh Kundu, Mushirul Hasan, C P Chandrasekar, Pralay Kanungo, Gopal Guru, Jayati Ghosh, Ram Rahman, N K Sharma, Sudhanva Deshpande, Rajendra Prasad, P K Shukla and M K Raina.