I can not but help observing that the subject cartoon of 1949 was published at a time when Shri. Babasaheb Ambedkar was very much alive and active in the solemn work of framing the constitution and that he himself must have had a hearty laugh at the caricature and did not take offence. As such, the comic act of our parliamentarians seething in anger at the vintage cartoon even while the affected person Shri. Ambedkar himself was not moved to anger in his time by the cartoon could itself be a subject matter of a new cartoon for the fraternity of cartoonists.
Kesava Shankara Pillai popularly known as Shanker or Sanker had drawn that cartoon way back in the year 1949! The e ‘so-called’ controversial book in which the cartoon was reproduced was published as long ago as 2006! But no one objected then, probably because in was taken in the right spirit…as it should be! To wake up now and rake it up as an issue to pound shows a mean streak of intolerance!
In India we make a mockery of everything -be it democracy, constitution, parliament, government, ..name anything! No doubt every incidence makes us cartoon characters and folds in the eyes of the World at large! The intolerance of political class for an innocuous cartoon which no way denigrates Dr.B.R.Ambedkar whilst the Indian parliament is celebrating its 60th anniversary smacks of hypocrisy and parochialism. It is surprising that even Kapil Sibal, the habitually self asserting and belligerently protective spokesperson of government issues, irrespective of merits, meekly submitted to the ‘across the board’ misdirected criticism; perhaps lost his steam sequel to the continuous failure of his government and the Congress party in recent times and the most recent, Dr.Singhvi’s disgrace, could have shaken him. Cartoons in school text books are certainly a novel idea, as thought provoking, funny visuals contribute to stimulate the young inquiring minds as to their meaning; therefore the subject is better understood and retained in the mind. This approach deserves appreciation. The argument that the cartoon could be misconstrued by the 11th standard schoolchildren who read the textbook is bogus and an insult to their intelligence.
It is laughable to see an utterly inoffensive cartoon being used to create a controversy. Most of the politicians in India are devoid of any worthwhile convictions and have zero intellectual content. It is strange that not a single one of them came out against the controversy. Really, it’s a pity to see our nominated parliamentarians squabbling instead of debating and solving issues that hinders the progress of society.
In cartoonist Shanker’s days when cartoon was king, appreciation of the art of lampooning through the tip of the pencil took a front seat… aided , abetted and encouraged by no less a person than Panditji (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru) himself ..He even used to scold our cartoonist high priest, albeit in fond terms, when the latter slackened on his lampooning act, saying “Don’t Spare Me Shanker” !
The cartoon incident has happened even as our celebration of sixty years of our Parliamentary democracy is on. Many citizens are worried by the way our politicians surrender to muscle power, whether it is of caste or money. If only they all had debated to make sure that all the government schemes are implemented properly, India would have been a really developed country. In school I learned that diversity (in language, religion, etc) is one of the greatest plus points of India. Now I realize that this diversity is nothing but a complex social structure which provides fuel to a massive number of inconsequential political issues. Our democracy is essentially thriving on the randomness generated from such a complex social system.
Today Shanker would be turning in his grave, whimpering: “Spare Us..Spare Us..!”
In fact that is precisely be our cry too…as we bemoan the state of things today!
- Shankar’s ‘Varnashram’ Cartoon speaks!!! (indologygoa.wordpress.com)
- Cartoonist Shankar, the legend of Indian cartooning (indologygoa.wordpress.com)
- Cartoons All! Politicians and Self-Seekers (kafila.org)
- The comic republic (thehindu.com)