Sorry for hurting Maratha sentiments, says Saamana cartoonist; Sena dumps him

Saamana cartoonist Shreenivas Prabhudesai on Wednesday expressed regret over a cartoon that led to protests by the Maratha community in Maharashtra.

IANS| Updated: Sep 28, 2016, 21:34 PM IST

Mumbai: Saamana cartoonist Shreenivas Prabhudesai on Wednesday expressed regret over a cartoon that led to protests by the Maratha community in Maharashtra.

Hours later, the Shiv Sena and the Saamana Group distanced themselves from his action, saying they had nothing to do with the apology and their "stand remains unchanged".

"It was just a cartoon without reference to any particular community. The caricaturist has apologised and the matter ends," Saamana Executive Editor and Sena MP Sanjay Raut told the media here.

Earlier in the day, in a statement published by the Saamana Group, Prabhudesai said the cartoon was not intended to hurt the sentiments of any group or community, particularly the Marathas.

"Despite this, if it has hurt anybody's feelings, I am sorry for the same," he said.

He said he was an artist and not a political cartoonist and that he draws cartoons to give some comic relief to people busy with their hectic daily lives.

"However, my September 25 cartoon has found objections from a particular community for which I am sorry. This has resulted in a political controversy in which the Shiv Sena and 'Saamana' were dragged," said Prabhudesai.

The controversial cartoon took a swipe at the ongoing month-long agitations and huge protest marches by the Maratha community across the state.

Playing on words about the "silent processions" (mook morchas), the cartoon showed a couple kissing with the caption 'mooka (kissing) morcha', which enraged the Marathas in the state.

However, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Mumbai unit President Ashish Shelar said he was not satisfied with Prabhudesai's statement and called upon Raut to tender a public apology to the Marathas.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and senior Congress leader Narayan Rane called on Governor C.V. Rao to discuss various issues.

The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and leading Maratha organisations have demanded an unconditional apology from Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray.

The cartoon had prompted an attack on Saamana's printing press in Saanpada, Navi Mumbai and the editorial office in Thane on Tuesday by members of the Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha group.

In Aurangabad, a bonfire was made of copies of the Marathi newspaper -- the mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena -- while other forms of protests were held in different parts of Maharashtra even as the opposition and the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena allies engaged in a political slugfest.

Late on Tuesday night, Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale said Sambhaji Brigade activists Purushottam Khedekar, Amol Jadhavrao, Anna Sawant and Manoj Akhre were booked in connection with the Saanpada incident.

On its part, Shiv Sena senior Cabinet minister Subhash Desai accused the Congress and the NCP of fuelling the ongoing pro-reservation agitation among the Marathas.

"They ruled the state for 15 years, but did nothing for Maratha reservation... They created a farce of reservation which was later struck down by the courts," Desai said in a sharp reaction late on Tuesday.

He said that Thackeray has fully supported the ongoing Maratha agitation and even Raut had backed it through his writings in Saamana, but it is the Congress and the NCP which is vitiating the peaceful atmosphere.