Freedom of expression is contextual, says Kapil Sibal

May 14th, 2012 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal Monday said that freedom of expression is “contextual”.

His statement came even as members in the Lok Sabha once again united in criticising cartoons in NCERT textbooks, stating that these allegedly denigrated political leaders, especially the ones on B.R. Ambedkar.

Sibal promised the Lok Sabha that all objectionable material would be removed and the role of advisors of NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) probed. He later told reporters in the parliament complex that the government held the view that such cartoons were not suitable for “impressionable minds” as they may be misled.

“Freedom of expression is contextual,” Sibal said.

“In a newspaper, it is acceptable. But in a textbook which can influence impressionable minds, it is not suitable,” he said, adding that several cartoons presently in textbooks were against some people, group or communities.

He, however, condemned the attack on a member of the committee that approved the book, Professor Suhas Palshikar in Pune.

“Any kind of violence in democracy is condemnable,” Sibal said.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha as the matter was raised during the zero hour once again, Sibal said, “We ordered the withdrawal of the Ambedkar cartoon April 26. The role of the NCERT advisors would be probed”.

“The government appreciates the concern of the house. I have reviewed the class XI book on political science and found many cartoons in it were offensive. We will ensure that only educationally appropriate material goes into NCERT books,” he said, adding that the distribution of the books has been stopped.

Sibal also said NCERT advisors Suhas Palshikar and Yogendra Yadav have resigned over the issue.

Earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used the opportunity to demand Sibal’s removal.

“Of late, I have noticed a tendency among some people to denigrate politicians, parliamentarians and even parliament. Just removing the cartoons from the textbooks would not do. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal should go,” BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said. He added these books have an impact on “impressionable minds”.

NDA convenor and Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav supported his view. “Sibal should be removed, so that future HRD ministers are cautious,” said Yadav.

Sibal had May 11 assured the house that all “objectionable” material from NCERT books would be removed.

Stating that “bashing up the politicians has become a fashion”, Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam said the role of NCERT advisors needed to be probed. “Who are these so-called intellectuals?” asked Nirupam.

The Left parties, too, said the trend of showing politicians in a bad light was not good for the country. “There is a general assumption that all politicians are thieves,” said Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta.

Observing that the issue did not concern any single party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad said that “it brought parliamentarians together”.

Recalling a 1980 cartoon which depicted him as a dacoit, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said the house should take the issue seriously.

In an emotional outburst against cartoons denigrating politicians, Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said there is “a wave of revulsion against politicians”.

However, National Conference leader Sharifuddin Shariq said parliamentarians should not be irked if some cartoons have been published against them.

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