Going by the ruckus surrounding cartoons these days, by the angry, at times violent, reactions of elected lawmakers against any kind of caricature of prominent personalities, it seems ‘laughter’ itself has become a laughing matter in contemporary India. And, this indeed is puzzling. The emerging trend of automatically equating lampooning with character assassination, of treating every expression of joviality targeting persons deputed by people to run the republic as being fundamentally slanderous and libelous, cannot but result in undermining the nation’s democratic charter.
Those who now readily question the public right to parody celebrities or icons are also guilty of forgetting that India has a long tradition of producing social and political commentaries in the form of hilarious visuals and words. The lack of sense of humour of persons at the helm of power today is so profound now that we may very soon lapse into a state of amnesia in relation to the deeply admired and dearly loved cartoonists, such as, Gaganendranath Tagore, R. K. Laxman, K. Shankara Pillai (better known as Shankar), Attupurathu Mathew Abraham (known popularly as Abu Abraham), O. V. Vijayan, Mario de Miranda (better known as Mario).
It is on behalf of the ‘little men’, from whose perspectives the celebrated cartoonists dared to make light heavy-going matters, that we condemn the somber Indian politicians’ and their lathi-wielding goons’ zeal to persecute persons committed to the cause of irony, irreverence and critical humour in public life.
Sibaji Bandyopadhyay Lakshmi Subramanian
Indraneel Dasgupta Sugata Marjit
Manabi Majumdar Jyotsna Jalan
Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya Prachi Deshpande
PranabKumar Das Priya Sangameswaran
Rosinka Chaudhuri Anirban Das
Saibal Kar Somnath Ghosal
Bodhisattva Kar Partha Chatterjee
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC)
May 14, 2012