New Delhi: A cartoon on Dalit icon B R Ambedkar printed in an NCERT textbook set off a storm in both houses of Parliament on Friday, with some members saying it was insulting and should be withdrawn.

The issue led to both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha being adjourned repeatedly.

Seeking to put a lid over the row, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said he has asked the NCERT to remove the offending picture and stop distribution of the textbooks.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, Sibal said he had written to the NCERT in April asking it to withdraw the offending cartoon from the Political Science textbook of Class XI. Sibal said distribution of these textbooks has been stopped and a review has been ordered not just of the cartoons but also of the content of the textbooks. Next year we will remove all such contents from the textbooks, Sibal said.

Sibal was even forced to apologise in the Lok Sabha over the issue. "Even though I was not the minister (when the cartoon was published in 2006), I apologise," said Kapil Sibal.

Kapil Sibal also made a statement in the Rajta Sabha. "The cartoon on Ambedkar was objectionable; concrete steps will be taken to ensure such things are not repeated," he said.

The uproar in the Lok Sabha began soon after the house met in the morning on Friday.

The issue of the cartoon, which also features Jawaharlal Nehru and was published in the textbook for Class 11, was raised by Thol. Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, a Tamil Nadu-based party.

He was supported by members cutting across party lines.

As the house met for the day, Thirumavalavan raised a placard highlighting the issue and walked towards Speaker Meira Kumar's podium.

The Speaker had called for the scheduled question hour to be taken up, and asked Thirumavalavan to return to his seat, promising she would allow him time to raise the issue later.

Thirumavalavan told the House that the cartoon was "insulting to Ambedkar, Nehru and the whole nation".

He wanted the book withdrawn immediately and human resource development minister Kapil Sibal to come to the House and make a statement on it. At one point, an agitated Thirumavalavan sought the resignation of Sibal over the issue.

Leader of House Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the issue, said the printing of the cartoon in the textbook was "totally wrong" and that he "entirely" agreed with the sentiments of all sections of the House.


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