AN INCOMPLETE AND
BIASED HISTORY OF INDIA
Political Cartoons Through the Years
POWER OF SATIRE
There is no better way to understand an age through the eyes of a satirist. This is the reason why rulers have always hated humour. More than puncturing their egos, satire exposes the basic faults in their ideologies and the harm they do to politics and culture. The cartoonist is the last line of defence, the creator of a subversive intellectual ethos that questions power, initiates public conversation and debate while consecrating dissent in the heart of the reader as a reminder of the imperfections of governments.
Some cartoons I have drawn
through the years.
This appeared in The Indian Express in 1980, when the Janata Party government was brought down by Charan Singh in 1979, who was ironically the Home Minister who was investigating Emergency excesses. The promises of politicians continue to confuse the people. They always have. They always will. Such is the nature of power.
A NEW AGE ARRIVES. AN AGE OF HOPE THAT QUICKLY SEGUES INTO DISENCHANTMENT.
What else can you expect from the world of politics?
Then Indira Gandhi was assassinated. True to form, her son Rajiv Gandhi was elected the president of the Congress party and subsequently became the prime minister.
Such a nice guy. I wondered what I was going to do. Cartoonists don't like nice guys. Bad for business.
Then came Bofors.
For the first time, an Indian prime minister was directly accused of corruption. Rajiv was on the back foot. Arun Shourie and The Indian Express launched a campaign to oust him. My cartoons were the vanguard of the offensive.
Blamed as a co-conspirator in the Bofors scandal was Rajiv's close friend Amitabh Bachchan who had to resign his seat in Parliament, unable to handle the viciousness of politics. He quickly learned that the politics of Bollywood was child's play compared to the real enchilada.
Though later Rajiv got a clean chit after years of investigation, the controversy refused to die. The man in the centre of the scandal was Sonia Gandhi's close relative and businessman Ottavio Quattrochi, the Q mentioned in the Bofors diaries. This cartoon was drawn over a decade later in India Today when Q's name cropped up again.
The cartoonist demystified the political leader and thereby showed him up, warts and all.
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE WE LOST OUr IRREVERENCE
Religion played spoilsport
This cartoon appeared in The Indian Express in 1987, when the IPKF was sent to Sri Lanka. The cartoon shows Ram on his way to Lanka to rescue Sita and Hanuman asking whether he needs the IPKF's help. If this cartoon was to appear today, I would've been lynched provided any editor would publish it for "fear of hurting Hindus sentiments." There was a tolerant and humorous India in the not so distant past, which was okay with equality of irreverence.
I miss that. We all should.
When I think of what Indians have lost today in this unrecognisable country of state fear, mob murder, police action and FIRs, cartoons seem more important than ever. But the media, which once took on corruption, is so compromised that there is no chance of honesty being back on the table.
NEWS TELEVISION IS THE WMD THAT DESTROYED INDIAN JOURNALISM
People lost respect for the media
In the early 2000s, news TV entered the picture (pun unintended) and changed the nature of journalism. The search for TRPs became the main agenda of anchors and reporters. Then came sucking up to politicians as NDTV threw its lot with the Congress party. What came later was worse—a series of foul-mouthed, semi-literate journalists who like fishwives with the sensitivity and sophistication of street brawlers became the BJP's and Narendra Modi's indiscriminate champions. There was no news reporting anymore. Only partisan foul-mouthed faces.
Missed adding BJP.