How not to pay tribute to the departed – these two cartoons are the best examples

Recently, a cartoonist used his freedom of expression to declare to the world how his freedom of expression is being throttled by some media houses. Irony aside, the cartoonist, Satish Acharya claimed that some of his recent cartoons, of which some were critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP, were rejected or asked to be tinkered by some media houses. This rejection or suggestion to edit was linked to how media houses were indirectly being influenced by the ruling party. Thus, another creative martyr was born.

Of course, he did not explore the possibility that the editors at those media houses just didn’t feel the cartoons were good enough.

Whatever may be the truth of the above episode, his recent cartoon on the death of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, speaks more than it should. Acharya published the following cartoon last night, and promptly received brickbats from all:

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Tribute to Vajpayee or Nehru bhakti?
Cartoon that sparked controversy on Twitter

Let us try to analyse this masterpiece. On first glance, nobody would be able to guess this was a cartoon paying tributes to Vajpayee on his death. Instead, the “blaming” Nehru, can be easily construed to be a jibe directed at Modi and BJP at large, who often illustrate how Nehru’s policies led to India’s backwardness as compared to other contemporary countries.

Of late, the entire Congress-left ecosystem has been trying to convince everyone that blaming Nehru for India’s current condition is something that is unwise and foolish. In order to discourage this, they are espousing themes that mock any criticism of Nehru. The same ecosystem doesn’t leave any chance to praise Nehru even for the air they breathe, but has problems when his follies – which had long terms impact – are pointed out. To discourage people from pointing follies of Nehru, the ecosystem has been trying to mock any attempt to critique Nehru. This cartoon further the same agenda in my eyes.

But maybe I am reading too much into it? Could there be another message hidden in the cartoon?

If one strains his eyes, one can see at the bottom, Nehru carrying a newspaper which says that Nehru had predicted Vajpayee would be Prime Minister one day. With this, the context of the first line printed in bold in the cartoon changes. Now, Vajpayee can be construed to be giving credit to Nehru, for becoming the Prime Minister of India, and therefore achieving greatness.

This cartoon can either be classified as in bad taste (for the first interpretation) or poor (for the second interpretation). Bad taste, for using the death of Vajpayee to take a jibe at BJP or Modi. Poor, because one obscure comment of Nehru is used to make a cartoon on Vajpayee, when Vajpayee himself has so many other facets. Poor, also because the cartoon is unclear and the cartoonist eventually had to explain himself, albeit in a condescending manner:

But one thing is clear: The vileness towards BJP and ‘Bhakts’, and the desperate need to glorifying Nehru even in the death of Vajpayee.

I’m sorry, and I’m angry, but I have to say that only a sick sycophant, bereft of any creative ideas, would even dream of Nehru on a day when Atal Bihari Vajpayee ascends to Heaven. Not only has the cartoon exposed the cartoonist’s loyalties, but also his limited imagination. Further, if the cartoon could not communicate what the cartoonist intended to say, then for sure the cartoonist had failed.

How are we to know if the editors in the past rejected many such cartoons for their sheer lack of quality?

Not to be left behind, another cartoonist had this cartoon for paying tributes to Vajpayee:

Tributes to Vajpayee or jibe at Modi?
Cartoon by Manjul on Vajpayee’s death

Deciphering this masterpiece by our Michelangelo is even harder. A heart balloon, the width if which is indicated to be more than 56 inches, floats towards the sky.

Yes, what a nice tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who often used the “56 inches” phrase in all his speeches. This cartoon has nothing to do with current PM Modi, or his rumoured chest size. No sir, this is what India’s brilliant cartoonists pass off as tributes.

If you can’t stop yourself from sucking up to the Nehru-Gandhi family or taking a jibe at Modi when someone has died, it’s time to take a break and make a cartoon on your dark soul.

R K Laxman, how we miss you!


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