You’re browsing through Twitter while having your morning chai and you see a comic that is so apt that you can’t help but stop and think. Political cartoonists have been receiving attention during the pandemic for depicting the state of affairs, but some of these have come under the scanner. Cartoonist Manjul was sent a notice by Twitter after his social media account which had works that depicted the Centre’s handling of the COVID outbreak, came under the spotlight.
Are political cartoonists being targeted?
On June 4, Manjul was sent a notice by Twitter as they claimed having received a legal request from the Indian law enforcement about the cartoonist’s social media account. Days later, Manjul was suspended from Network-18 where he worked as a cartoonist on a contract basis. Manjul had spoken to News Laundry, before the suspension voicing his concerns that “Twitter tried to waive off its responsibilities by sending me an email, just so in case another notice is served tomorrow, I will have to bear its brunt. This will impact my clients. I’m on the verge of losing my clients. But I still put this out,” he explained.
While many expressed solidarity with the cartoonist, we can’t help but notice that there has been an increasing rise in the reach of political cartoons and the attention they are gaining. Bingedaily caught up with some of these political cartoonists who’ve been sending out a message loud and clear. Are you listening?
Do you think political cartoonists were accurate?
Vaibhav, a political cartoonist says he makes what he sees around. As the second wave of COVID-19 hit, it became clear that people were not too happy with the way the situation was managed. In an attempt to spread the message about what is actually needed on the ground versus what was being done, cartoons started doing the rounds.
You’ve got to admit to having had a laugh yourself at these. Vaibhav was one such political cartoonist who aimed to do something through his work. “As our honourable Prime Minister, said that "Criticism is the backbone of democracy", I think, in my opinion, we should criticise him in whatever way we can. Also, political satire is a great conversation starter. If people are at least talking about it or at least acknowledging it. It is enough for me.”
In an age where articles are getting shorter, cartoons are a 10 seconds mode of conveying the message and Vaibhav agrees. “Cartoons are a unique form of journalism that contrast with conventional forms of communication.” Will this form of media take over the traditional? It remains to be seen.
Why are Coronavirus comics by these political cartoonists going viral?
Sanid Asif Ali is a comic book artist from Kochi, who’s been on a journey to send a message through political satire. During the pandemic along with co-editor Nithin Mathew he created Hope On, an anthology comic featuring six real-life stories about women who discover hope and kindness during trying circumstances.
This cartoonist thinks that comic relief is a very important art form, which takes complex ideas and condenses them to invoke sharp criticism. “The effect of good satire is such that, it starts an internal dialogue with the viewer very quickly. Historically the absurdity of political situations is captured most accurately through humour.
With an approach to avoid labels of any kind, Sanid says he tries instead to take emotional baggage out of the art, to make the readers think about what is fair in a given situation.
What’s your favourite editorial cartoon about the COVID-19 pandemic?
“Comics are a good way to make your point come across, especially when freedom of speech is on the verge of being dead,” says Krityam Jain. “We live in a country where dissent is forbidden, hopelessness is everywhere and nothing seems to improve. People who are thriving are only capitalists, so political satire plays a key role in dystopian times like this. We have nothing to look forward to, what little we have left is just satire or a few laughs.”
When it comes to political satire, Krityam says he makes an attempt to never punch down in the name of satire or comedy. “There is no sense in making fun of people who are already poor and come from marginalised communities. What you will get after mocking them, making jokes on people who are already left out from the system is just public execution and nothing else.”
What are your thoughts about dissent through comics?
Have you often wondered what sets off the spark to turn someone into a political cartoonist? We asked a celebrated person who goes by the name Shaky Lines 3D on social media, about how dissent turns into art. “Using Naseeruddin Shah’s line from ‘A Wednesday’: Pick-up any random common man from the crowd whose conscience is troubled by the happenings around him. A person who has seen his friends and family members turn into bigoted zombies as unaware victims of systematic propaganda. I am that person.”
This cartoonist says it had become progressively impossible to have spoken/written conversations with the zombies on the subject of politics, India, culture etc. And yet there was this pressure-cooker within the mind that desperately wanted to vent it out. “I felt whatever I wanted to say had to be clothed in humour because I figured that’s the only way to get through hardened mental defences of people.”
The first time you draw a cartoon of someone who is politically very strong, they say, you experience a sense of liberation and with that empowerment.
Speaking about thoughts on when fellow cartoonists are accused of contempt of Court, Shaky Lines 3D says “Artists, by DNA, have to keep pushing the envelope, so there would always be some people sitting on the boundary edges who would feel offended. But now it seems it has less to do with boundaries being pushed and more to do with acute polarization. So it isn’t anymore about the edge-cases but about anything & everything that people from the ‘othered polarity’ do — whether they be comedians, cartoonists, actors, singers, or even shopkeepers & vegetable-sellers!”
Tell us about your favourite political cartoonist who you’ve been following during the pandemic or otherwise, and why you think comics are a way of speaking out!