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No cartoons please!

By Shruti Saxena | Last Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 17:41
Shruti Saxena
An Epitome

Do you laugh when seeing cartoons in newspapers, magazines or on TV? If yes, then you better be cautious as cartoons are no longer supposed to be humorous.

A laugh is normally all we need to forget our day’s tensions and chaotic lifestyle. Imagine a day when you see a swarm of pale and sad faces around you with smiles missing. Ever wondered how the world would be without laughter?

I mean after a long day at office don’t you have the right to share a good laugh after coming back home with your family or giggling on those funny jokes on your way back with colleagues or friends? So what if that smile on my and your face is derived from cartoons. Yes, don’t we enjoy seeing those funny caricatures?

But, I think our politicians have taken it upon themselves in a bad taste to amuse us all.

A cartoon on Dalit icon Dr. BR Ambedkar printed in an NCERT textbook created a storm in Parliament forcing Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to apologise.

The old cartoon, by renowned cartoonist Shankar, depicts India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, holding a whip as the father of the Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar, is seated on a snail.

It’s eccentric to see such apparently mild cartoons causing a ripple in the country’s establishment which recently observed the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of its Parliament and calls itself the world’s largest democracy.

Is this democracy? I feel the Indian government’s response to withdraw all these cartoons from textbooks is bizarrely arcane. Yes, all of us have the right to reject what doesn’t interest us, but we don’t have the right to scrap something just because we are not very happy with the idea.

Cartoons offer an interesting mode of academic rendezvous in classrooms. School students are also members of the society and have full right to be familiar with what is happening in the society. So, I really don’t see a problem with children analysing cartoons as it fosters their imagination.

The cartoon in question was first published in 1949, and reprinted in a textbook a few years ago, without anyone having any qualms about it including Pt Nehru and Dr Ambedkar. Then, why are eyebrows being raised now? The aim of the cartoonist was merely to portray the slow pace at which the Indian Constitution was being finalized and nothing more.

What is even disappointing is that in the backdrop of this, our politicians are serving their own political interests.

It seems like the government is taking a lesson from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. There was a hullabaloo in the state after a university professor shared a cartoon which poked fun at her and was later arrested.

Is the government trying to regulate the freedom of expression? Would this mean that in the future there can be a ban on cartoons from being published? How would it feel not getting your daily dose of cartoons in newspapers and magazines while sipping your favourite tea or coffee?

Not just in India, even around the world some other contentious sketches have created a furore like when Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard made headlines after his caricature showed Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. It created an outrage amongst many Muslims. Since then, both the Danish cartoonist and the newspaper have been targets of many thwarted attacks.

My question is, why can’t we treat cartoons as merely cartoons? It is just the imagination of a cartoonist, so let it be.

And let Gen X decide whether they want cartoons to be a part of their books.

First Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 17:41

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