It's ironic. The party was formed and united by cartoons, but now, the party appears to be on the verge of a breakdown because of a cartoon. The Shiv Sena was born from a weekly cartoon magazine called Marmik. Party founder and supremo for many decades Bal Thackeray was known to the world through his cartoons. But now the Shiv Sena is in trouble for publishing a cartoon in its mouthpiece Saamana.
In the years gone by, the Shiv Sena — it could be said — stretched the limits of Freedom of Expression when taking down its targets through cartoons. But, this is the first time the Maratha community has demanded an apology from Saamana executive editor Sanjay Raut and Sena president-cum-Saamana editor Uddhav Thackeray for publishing a cartoon that hurt the sentiments of the community. The crisis comes at a time when the party is in its 50th year.
The Sena on Wednesday published an apology by its cartoonist Shrinivas Prabhudesai, after the Saamana office in Navi Mumbai was pelted with stones over a cartoon published. But now, the Maratha Kranti Morcha organisers want apologies from Raut and Uddhav. Published on the front page page of Saamana's Wednesday edition, Prabhudesai's apology read: "There was no intention to hurt anyone's sentiments. The controversy over the cartoon is unnecessary. I am an artist and not a political cartoonist. The issue was made political and some people attempted to drag the Shiv Sena as well as Saamana into it and therefore, I am issuing this clarification."
"With great humility, I would like to state that I did not wish to hurt the sentiments of any community; I apologise for that," Prabhudesai continued, adding, "In a busy life, my intention is put a smile on people's face. That's why I make cartoons."
Speaking to Firstpost, a senior journalist from the Pudhari newspaper Uday Tanpathak suggested it was a case of chickens coming home to roost. "The cartoon published in Saamana was in bad taste. It hurts people's sentiments. It's not only the Maratha Morcha remark in the cartoon, I am very hurt by the remark against martyrs (referring to the frame wherein a cop looks at a dead soldier and says "Something's amiss. This soldier died as a result of dengue and not a terror attack"). It's below the belt. Nobody thinks this way about our soldiers. The Sena never respects the Freedom of Expression of others," he added, "Also a leader like Pramod Mahajan used to ask Bal Thackeray to caricature him, now nobody wants any cartoons on any political leader," he said.
A cartoonist and senior journalist with Lokmat Sandip Pradhan said that in the current situation, this type of cartoon cannot be published. "The silent morcha has been organised by the Maratha community and it damages the law-and-order situation. It's interesting that earlier it was the Sena attacking media houses and now others are attacking Saamana office," he added. Of 63 Sena MLAs, 38 are from the Maratha community and are under pressure to resign (from members of their own community). "There are internal politics within the Sena and due to this, a section of Sena leaders want an apology from Raut. This has united Raut's rivals," added Pradhan.
Sources in the Shiv Sena said Raut had refused to tender an apology and that was why Maratha Sena leader Subhash Desai issued a press note about the cartoon. Desai blamed the Congress and the NCP for what he said was fuelling the ongoing pro-reservation agitation among Marathas all over the state."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," he said.
Desai added that Uddhav has fully supported the ongoing Maratha agitation and even Raut had backed it through his writings in Saamana, but elements like (Opposition leaders) Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Dhananjay Munde are spoiling the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
In the years gone by, the Shiv Sena — it could be said — stretched the limits of Freedom of Expression when taking down its targets through cartoons
Incidentally, three youths on Tuesday arrived in a vehicle at the Saamana printing press building located in Sanpada in Navi Mumbai, and allegedly pelted it with stones and fled. Shiv Sena's office in Navi Mumbai was also attacked by the workers of Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha outfit. Commissioner of police (Navi Mumbai) Hemant Nagrale told Firstpost, “An incident of stone-pelting was reported at the Saamana office, Sanpada, where two or three windows have been damaged."
"An offence is being registered against the culprits. Investigations will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken against the accused. Pursuant to the incident of stone-pelting at the Saamana office in Sanpada, an offence has been registered vide CR No 140/2016, U/S 336,427 of IPC against Shrikrushna Sawant, Amol Jadhavrao, Manojdada Aakhre, Purushottam Khedkar, office-bearers of the Sambhaji Brigade and others," said Nagrale and added, "The said attack is purported to condemn the article in Saamana, with damage worth Rs 30,000 caused. An investigation being conducted and accused will be arrested soon.”