New Delhi: In 1923, iconic Bengali humorist Sukumar Ray described a curious race of beings "who were scared to laugh". With the government forced to apologise for a 1949 cartoon on Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar after parliamentarians of all hues raised a massive ruckus, are Indians becoming that humourless race?
The 63-year-old cartoon by the eminent Shankar - considered the father of Indian political cartoonists who ran the highly regarded Shankar's Weekly till it closed down during Indira Gandhi's Emergency regime of 1975-77 - shows first prime minister Nehru with a whip in his hand chasing Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution, who is on a snail. The uproar in parliament, that began with protests by pro-Dalit parties, led to Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal removing the sketch from NCERT textbooks and an attack on the offices of NCERT advisor Suhas Palshikar even though he had quit.
The controversy, posing the bigger question of removing political cartoons from textbooks entirely points to a tiptoeing autocracy, growing stupidity and joylessness in the Indian polity, say a cross section of scholars, intellectuals and society watchers.
Former politician and schoolteacher M.L. Chattopadhyay says the controversy is reminiscent of Ray's limerick "Ram Garurer Chana" - children of the bird Ram Garuda who are not allowed to laugh... and were always scared that someone was laughing....more
01:12 PM, May 18, 2012