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Vox Pop

Going by the ruckus surrounding cartoons these days — by the angry and frequently violent reactions of elected lawmakers against any kind of caricature of prominent personalities — it seems ‘laughter’ itself has become a laughing matter in contemporary India.

india Updated: May 15, 2012 22:29 IST

Lampooning is not character assassination

Going by the ruckus surrounding cartoons these days — by the angry and frequently violent reactions of elected lawmakers against any kind of caricature of prominent personalities — it seems ‘laughter’ itself has become a laughing matter in contemporary India. This indeed is puzzling. The emerging trend of automatically equating lampooning with character assassination, of treating every expression of joviality targeting persons deputed by people to run the republic as being fundamentally slanderous and libelous, cannot but result in undermining the nation’s democratic charter. Those who now readily question the public right to parody celebrities or icons are also guilty of forgetting that India has a long tradition of producing social and political commentaries in the form of hilarious visuals and words.

The lack of sense of humour of people at the helm of power today is so profound that we may soon lapse into a state of amnesia in relation to the deeply admired and dearly loved cartoonists such as Gaganendranath Tagore, RK Laxman, K Shankara Pillai (better known as Shankar), Attupurathu Mathew Abraham (known popularly as Abu Abraham), OV Vijayan and Mario de Miranda. It is on behalf of the ‘little men’, from whose perspectives the celebrated cartoonists dared to make light heavy-going matters, that we condemn the current persecution by Indian politicians and their lathi-wielding goons of those committed to the cause of irony, irreverence and critical humour in our public life.

Sibaji Bandyopdhyay, Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya, Partha Chatterjee, and members of faculty of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta