Thursday, 18 October 2012

Why Dalits opposed a cartoon lampooning Dr.Ambedkar in a school text book - a perspective of a Dalit writer / journalist.

Why Dalits opposed a cartoon lampooning Dr.Ambedkar in a school text book - a perspective of a Dalit writer / journalist.

Written by Dr. Iniyan Elango, Correspondent; “Dalit Murasu” magazine.  

Most media perspectives and opinions on the controversy regarding the inclusion of a cartoon lampooning Dr.Ambedkar in a NCERT text book have been totally oblivious to the daily socially occurring reality of lampooning or defacing Dr.Ambedkar’s imagery as a bigoted act of oppression, stigmatization and humiliation heaped on Dalits.

In a period of nationwide Dalit resurgence, perpetration of vandalism and defacement on Dr. Ambedkar’s statutes and images is one of the most common and heinous ways by which caste Hindu bigots express their collective bigotry and hatred on Dalits. Thus, a caricature of a leader such as “Pandit” (Brahmin) Nehru holding a whip while standing beside a cartoon of Dr. Ambedkar with the latter depicted in a subordinate position to Nehru, which has been re-published in a text book six decades after its original publication - would only be seen as an act to hurt Dalit sensibilities at best and as an outright act of humiliating Dalits at worst. People who harp on freedom of expression fail to notice or ignore the bigoted tradition of defacing, vandalising or humiliating images and statutes of Dr.Ambedkar as an act of collective hatred, untouchability and bigotry against Dalits. Thus, if a caricature of Dr. Ambedkar such as the one that was published in a NCERT text book was drawn in the walls of a village or town, it would have been only perceived as an act of bigoted hatred and untouchability aimed at humiliating and oppressing Dalits, and would have led to caste violence. Why would the so called academics expect the situation to be any different if the same cartoon is published in a text book is beyond the cognition of those who have seen and experienced the subjective anger felt by most Dalits due to the humiliation, defacement and vandalism heaped on Dr. Ambedkar’s imagery as an act of collective hatred, violence and oppression against Dalits.

The fact that most high school students and college students of caste Hindu background are brought up on a heavy diet of bigotry and hatred against Dalits and the Dalit icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is evident from past instances such as the mass murderous violence unleashed by caste Hindu students against Dalit students in Maharashtra state in order to prevent the naming of the Marathwada university after Dr.B.R.Ambedkar which left dozens of Dalit students dead! In such a situation of rampant anti-Dalit and anti-Ambedkar bigotry amongst caste Hindu students, and given the total lack of curricular lessons advocating against the social realities of the bigoted and vertically graded caste system and untouchability practices for school students, and the total exclusion of Dr. Ambedkar’s writings against caste bigotry, untouchability and Hindu religion  from school curricula, and a total absence of a positive biographical account of Dr. Ambedkar’s academic, political, social and constitutional achievements in school text books, teaching students a prejudiced and biased cartoon that falsely portrays Dr. Ambedkar as an inefficient and ill treated subordinate to Nehru while the latter is illustrated as holding a whip besides Dr. Ambedkar, will only reinforce prejudiced stereotypes and bigoted perceptions of Dr. Ambedkar that is held by caste Hindu youth, and will only serve as a bigoted tool of humiliating and degrading Dr. Ambedkar’s image as an expression of hatred, humiliation and untouchability against Dalits. 

Why would anyone include a cartoon depicting Dr. Ambedkar in a negative and humiliating light in a school text book given the aforementioned bigoted social realities is something that is asked by all conscious and informed Dalits.  After all, political cartoons criticizing Hindu extremist fanaticism, Hindu religion, untouchability, Brahmin caste supremacy, caste bigotry or the caste system is not included in the school curricula for political science or sociology subjects and no cartoon lampooning Hindu superstitions, Hindu Godmen or Hindu Gods would be included in a text book. Certainly, no one would dare suggest that M.F.Hussain’s illustrations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses opposed by Hindutva fanatics should adorn a text book in the name of freedom of expression and “critical pedagogy”!

Freedom of expression is no justification to include bigoted cartoons that serve to perpetrate hatred, bigotry and humiliation against Dalits in a school text book through defacement or lampooning of Dr. Ambedkar’s imagery. This is why most Dalits oppose the teaching of a cartoon that lampoons Dr. Ambedkar by depicting him in the receiving end of a whip lashing caricature of Nehru – in a text book. Those who don’t see this point are ignorant or oblivious to the daily subjective realities of hatred and violence perpetrated on Dalits by way of defacing, vandalising and humiliating Dr. Ambedkar’s images and statutes! What seems humorous freedom of expression for the elitist pedagogues far removed from the oppressive social realities of Dalits is indeed hateful and bigoted defacement, humiliation and degradation of a Dalit icon’s image as an expression of murderous oppression and evil caste bigotry collectively strewn on Dalits!

I am sure that South Africans will not include a school lesson containing a cartoon lampooning Nelson Mandela as an inefficient subordinate beside a whip lashing caricature of a white Afrikaner leader! Then why would Indians want a school text book to carry a cartoon lampooning Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar by falsely accusing him of being responsible for the alleged slow drafting of the Indian constitution and caricaturising him as an ill treated subordinate to a whip holding caricature of a caste Hindu and Brahmin leader such as Nehru which only reinforces bigoted stereotypes against Dalits and Dr. Ambedkar amongst misinformed, non-informed and prejudiced caste Hindu youth? 

The cartoon incorrectly claims that it took an unduly long time to draft the constitution and unfairly holds Dr. Ambedkar responsible for the allegedly slow drafting of the constitution by depicting Dr. Ambedkar as a rider on a snail with the snail figuratively representing the allegedly slow drafting process of the constitution. In addition, the cartoon depicts a whip wielding Nehru who is shown as standing besides Dr. Ambedkar riding a snail, with the snail metaphorically representing the allegedly slow drafting process of the constitution. This by itself is a historically false picture that humiliates and insults Dr. Ambedkar. There was no undue delay in the drafting of the Indian constitution. It is only natural that sufficient time should be taken by the constituent assembly to deliberate and draft a comprehensive constitution for a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and complex populace such as the people of India. The constituent assembly only met for 166 days for deliberating the drafting of the constitution which cannot be considered as any undue delay in the drafting of the constitution. The fact that India became a republic by adopting a new constitution within three years of attaining independence from British rule shows that there was no undue delay in the drafting of the constitution. The time duration of three years that passed after independence from British rule before India became a republic by adopting the new constitution only shows that sufficient, necessary and justifiable time was spent in drafting and adopting a comprehensive constitution for the Indian people without any undue and unnecessary delay. Hence, it can be fairly concluded that the cartoon conveys a historically incorrect information by falsely alleging undue delay in the drafting of the constitution, and the cartoon also falsely blames Dr. Ambedkar for the falsely alleged delay in the drafting of the constitution and in addition falsely suggests that Nehru was accelerating the process of drafting the constitution by depicting Nehru as cracking a whip on Dr. Ambedkar.

Nobody denies that the cartoonist had the freedom of expression to portray his partisan views critiquing Dr. Ambedkar, however untenable and false, in a cartoon six decades ago. But where is the wisdom, ethics and morality in re-publishing that cartoon as a lesson in a school text book six decades later, considering the questionable and false message of the cartoon which is seen as reinforcing bigoted attitudes against Dalits and Dr. Ambedkar by a resurgent and assertive Dalit populace seeking to destroy bigoted stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes that shackles Dalits to the clutches of caste bigotry, caste oppression and the evil of untouchability? 

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