If the much ado about a cartoon has made anything clear it is this – Mamata Banerjee was right and the rest of us were wrong.
Didi saw the danger wrapped in a cartoon long before the rest of us did. Now the Lok Sabha has jumped, en masse, onto her bandwagon proving that the old adage still holds true – what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.
West Bengal’s CM must be smirking now.
When her government threw a professor in jail for forwarding a cartoon making fun of her via a Satyajit Ray film, the political establishment around the country tut-tutted. But the political class has since realised they were fools for not rushing in where Didi did not fear to tread.
Leave aside the Shankar cartoon at the heart of this controversy. Much has already been written about whether the cartoon was about Ambedkar the constitution-drafter versus Ambedkar, the Dalit leader. There has been a lot of debate about whether something that was appropriate sixty years ago isn’t too charged in today’s political context. As P Radhakrishnan puts it in DNA “any sensible cartoonist would see drawing a similar sketch now showing Nehru as the ringmaster and Ambedkar as a performer under him as mala fide.”
Leave aside also the issue about whether political cartoons even belong in school textbooks. “Such cartoons need mature minds to understand,” said Sharad Yadav (JD-U). “The minds of youngsters are not.”
What’s really noteworthy in this entire hullabaloo is that for once our fractious political establishment has joined ranks to make common cause. That should be enough to give the rest of us “immediate pause” writes Janaki Nair in The Hindu.
Consider the counter example, of cacophonous and extraordinary vitiation in Parliament on questions of offences against, and representations of, women, leave alone the issue of reservations. Of what commitment to public reason and debate, to reflection, critique and indeed a historical temper, does this consensus speak?
It speaks of this and only this – a confederacy of thin skins, united in opportunism, dressed up as piety.
First came the chorus of the bechara politician and how no one loves her.
Mamata had already defended her war on the cartoon as her justified reaction to “character assassination.” Mulayam Singh Yadav reminisced about a 1980 cartoon that depicted him as a daku. “Is there any problem with our faces, are they contorted?” wondered Lalu Prasad, the favoured son of cartoonists around the country. These are “canards against politics in a systematic manner” lamented Yashwant Sinha (BJP) while Sonia Gandhi thumped her desk in appreciation. This is all about fueling a “sab chor hai” sentiment across the country said Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI).
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