India Moves to Ban Cartoons from Textbooks

by Soyini A. Hamit

On May 14, one day after the 60th anniversary of the Indian Parliament, the government decided to ban textbooks from the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) for using cartoons that mock politicians. The government will also review NCERT textbooks, in addition to removing the offensive cartoons.

What began as an affront to famed cartoonist Shankar Pillai’s depiction of political leader B. R. Ambedkar has grown into an assault on the use of all cartoons in textbooks. Members of Parliament protested until the government relented and agreed to censor textbooks. The lone voice of dissent came from MP Sharifuddin Shariq, who felt that the cartoons should not upset politicians because they “reflected the reality.”

The Indian government is no stranger to banning work that they feel reflects them poorly. Freelance political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi faces imprisonment and fines from charges of treason and insulting national emblems.

For more information on this story, read the Times of India coverage here and here, as well as CBLDF coverage of Aseem Trivedi’s case here.

Few countries protect Free Speech as adamantly as the United States does, and censorship has a chilling effect worldwide. Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Soyini A. Hamit is a comic fan and writer masquerading as a laboratory technologist. You can follow her fascination with language and music at Word Sounds Have Power.