There is nervousness, there is paranoia, and then there is the government of India a.k.a. our ruling elite. While Shah Rukh Khan embarrassed himself with the “Jaanta hai main kaun hun” display at Wankhade (which will hit each one of us at some point, yes you too – be sure of that), it’s a condition the political heavyweights (and even lightweights) live with for life. And if you’ve lived with it long enough you internalise it, so any questioning is seen as “anarchy”, any dissent is a “threat to democracy” and any adversary is an “enemy”.
The Foundation for Media Professionals organized a Draw To Demonstrate protest against our paranoid government’s latest move to ban cartoons from text books. As they said in their press release –
“Following the uproar in Parliament, HRD Minister Mr Kapil Sibal has expressed his intention to eliminate all political cartoons from NCERT textbooks. We feel this is a retrograde step for democracy and does not augur well for what may come. It smacks of an intolerant attitude which is not conducive to the evolution of democracy and mature healthy dissent and debate.
We’d like to demonstrate that irreverence is not disrespect and cartoons and illustration are an important part of social-political commentary. They are not in fact “threats to democracy” and steps toward “anarchy” as some MPs have suggested. To drive this point home the Foundation of Media Professionals is organizing a Cartoon Demonstration & Contest. This protest will be attended by members of the journalistic community as well as artists, cartoonists and satirists.”
The event was attended by several cartoonists, artists and members of the journalistic community. Rajdeep Sardesai addressed the gathering and made the point of how the government even when not talking the “ban” language has insidious ways of squeezing dissenting voices of the media.
Referring to the Delhi-based mainstream media, he said that, “We can still make our voice heard, but in smaller cities the government has many ways to curb dissent like taking away government advertisements in newspapers etc. The strongest voice heard in the Parliament against the cartoons was that of Harmeet Kaur from the Akali Dal. If a channel does something against them they get the cable operators to pull the channel off. When IBN Lokmat did a story against Chhagan Bhujbal it was removed from cable channels in Maharasthra. That is a state with such a strong history of political satire and humour and it is still the RPI from the state which is indulging in such stuff.”
All you haters giving Sardesai a hard time, would be surprised by his measured tone and equanimity when he’s not on the set of his show. Unfortunately, no MPs showed up to witness this side of the gentleman.
Speaking at the event, Madhu Kishwar, social activist and academic said, “The worst kind of husband is one who is ignorant and insecure, the government in the same way is one with low self esteem.” Often identified as an aggro-feminist Kishwar could not resist giving a gender spin to this one either, but hey more power to you we say for a good cause.
Yogendra Yadav, social scientist and psephologist pointed to the ignorance and knee-jerk reaction of politicians in his soft spoken polite manner. Commenting on the recall of the NCERT book with the ‘offensive’ cartoon he said, “The people who are opposing the cartoon in the Parliament are all holding Xerox copies of the page, they have themselves not read a single line of the book. They don’t know the chapter or the message of what they are quoting.
For so many years nobody noticed the textbooks. Now this way at least we know about them. The textbooks ask the children questions about their own experiences, engage them.”
Cartoonist Sorit Gupto’s statement did reveal an artist’s angst against his own ilk as well, but the focus for the day was the establishment. He lamented, “My thanks to Kapil Sibal for bringing the focus back on cartoons. Cartoonists were done away with by the media itself. There are no more vacancies for cartoons and this came about from within the media itself. Among the cartoons in question, one is 60 years old and the other was on Facebook. None of these was in a newspaper. The post of the cartoonist was done away with just as the post of editor was done away with and executive editor came in its place. Now you need MBAs, not journalists.”
Several others extended their support to the Draw To Demonstrate event.
Have a look at some of the exhibits and creations.
Last week much of our Parliament’s time was taken up by discussing how illustrations and caricatures are destroying democracy, while more pressing matters like the Lokpal bill were placed in cold storage. Almost cartoonish though was a moment in Parliament when Laloo Prasad Yadav mistook R. K. Laxman’s Common Man for an L.K. Advani cartoon. One must admit there is a resemblance, but must our politician’s display their ignorance? Comedian Sandeep Sharma shared this and many other moments of intelligence displayed by our politicians during his act.
We’d be concerned about whether he’ll get banned for cracking his jokes, but we really don’t think our ministers and gate-keepers of the code will understand what he was saying. Before banning books for children, maybe it’s time our ministers grew up and realised that a little humour can go a long way… and pass the Lokpal bill too while they’re at it.
With Inputs from Aastha Manocha
Image Source [http://www.ncert.nic.in/]