In India, cartoons and cartoonists (to) Rest In Peace?
More often than not, one channel on television that parents never have the burden of restricting their children from watching would undoubtedly be Cartoon Network. At least that’s what the ‘normal’ notion is – by watching cartoons, children won’t deviate into wrong paths. Seems like with this country of ours and the bunch of people governing it, that notion is on the threshold of a massive roller-coaster ride, one which is bound to turn it all topsy-turvy.
Then the newspapers. There are spaces demarcated for cartoons in almost all local and national dailies in the world. India, too, is not an exception. Cartoons, in their incipience, were ones meant to evoke a sense of good humour with an underlying theme of any pertinent issue. And more often than not, people in the higher echelons of power in the country were the ones who were cartooned. That tradition still exists in almost all newspapers.
In the 17th century England, when writers John Dryden and Thomas Shadwell began a poetic duel with each other, the then intelligentsia didn’t leave any stone unturned in popularising their works. The blood and violence of the Jacobean Era had gradually made way for veiled annotations and polished satires of the Restoration Era by then, and Dryden never once hesitated in lambasting his competitor with words sharper than swords. Then came Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, right after the Restoration; the book, in itself, was a biting satire of the methods and mannerisms of the Kingdom of England. And never once, has it been out of print. Despite scathing embargoes being imposed right after the first time it was published and amendments made to escape charges of ‘sedition’, the book still maintains its indomitable rank among one of the greatest satires that humankind has ever been able to produce.
Then when the Colonial rulers set out on their voyage to India, reached the subcontinent and decided to quell uprisings from many local quarters, charges of ‘sedition’ were imposed left, right and centre. The British left the country after two centuries of an oppressive rule; six decades down the line, we have other ‘rulers’ who follow in their footsteps. What they missed out on understanding is the fact that India was declared a ‘democracy’ by their predecessors who so gloriously inhabited the chambers where they now so freely move in.
Cartoons, lampoons, satires, parodies – will all soon be wiped off from their respective mega-genres if this country continues to treat its artists with an iron fist. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s ‘crime’ was that he chose to draw a cartoon which, all of a sudden, seems to have overshadowed every other problem that the politicians have so deftly been dodging thus far.
Aseem Trivedi’s ‘misrepresentation’ of the National Emblem – the Ashok Stambh – way back in December 2011 attracted the ire of the people who control the repressive state machinery almost a year down the line, thanks to social media. Trivedi was arrested on charges of ‘sedition’ and is currently in judicial custody after refusing bail. However, the charges of ‘sedition’ still stay unscathed, amid assurances from the authorities that the same will be dropped.
In an earlier incident, Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University was rounded up by cops in West Bengal, on the diktat of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for having ‘outraged her modesty’ – through a
cartoon. We are well past the stage of childhood, it seems. The nation is sixty five years old now, and sixty five is no age to enjoy cartoons, or so our esteemed rulers believe. Therefore, exterminate the brutes! Arrest the cartoonists! And before long, they will all seek refuge elsewhere – the way so many artists have done. India will be a country where only one rule would exist – either be a sycophant and suck up to your politicians, or be deported to a jail somewhere in the bowels of some unknown place.
And like Dryden so effortlessly said –
“All human things are subject to decay,/And when fate summons, monarchs must obey:”
... It’s well past high time that our quasi-monarchs obeyed the dictates of Time. Or maybe wait for the tide to wash them away into oblivion.