These days, as we know, sentiments get hurt easily. But now the sentiment knows the day to get hurt. It comes with a well-orchestrated media plan. And the favoured day is usually a Friday. Take, for example, the Mamata Banerjee cartoon controversy. The cartoon, which apparently showed West Bengal chief minister Banerjee and Union railway minister Mukul Roy in a “poor light”, had been doing the rounds for a while on the internet but Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mohapatra was arrested for posting and circulating it by e-mail. The arrest came on a Friday. Then came the 1949 cartoon on BR Ambedkar. The issue rocked Parliament on — no prizes for guessing this — a Friday.
This love for Friday is not without a reason: it ensures coverage right thr-ough the weekend. The issue becomes the top story on Friday night, followed by vandalism and protests on Saturday and then on Monday we are inundated with editorials and columns. Not to forget the Sunday debate on television.
A cartoon is often a visual comment on issues of the time, is cast in a particular context and it’s not just for a few laughs only. The problem happens when you look back, as the context often blurs. This is the limited life and laugh of a political cartoon. At one point of time, the context of the Ambedkar cartoon was the slow pace of the drafting of the Constitution, not caste. The original intent is now obsolete but the representation of Ambedkar itself is a sentiment today. And when you place that sentiment in a textbook, it raises a parliamentary concern: is this what our children are learning?
But like many politicians, cartoonists too begin early, during their student days. Most of us have published our first cartoons (political cartoons included) in local newspapers or school magazines. The trend continues. In the times of the 24x7 media, news travels at the speed of light and the common man is no more a keen observer as before. But he forwards emails, posts new ones, hits the ‘like’ button, comments and, thus, participates whenever a cartoon is published or circulated. Cartoons can be kept out of textbooks but interested students will still make them.
To them, my advice is simple: get anticipatory bail — one that’s valid for 60 years. As for Ambedkar, he should not appear on the drawing board. He is truly untouchable!
Vishwajyoti Ghosh is the author of Delhi Calm, a graphic novel. His weekly cartoon ‘Full Toss’ appears in Hindustan Times every Sunday
The views expressed by the author are personal