#FreedomToDraw: Cartoons of Nehru and Indira Gandhi by E P Unny, R K Laxman and K Shankar Pillai
November 9, 2017
Cartoonist Bala was arrested from his residence in Chennai last Sunday, 5 November, 2017, for his cartoon that criticised the Tirunelveli Police Commissioner, the District Collector, and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, over the Tirunelveli immolation tragedy. In protest against this curbing of freedom of speech and expression, the Indian Cultural Forum has decided to come out with a series of political cartoons, called #FreedomToDraw .
We begin with a sketch by E P Unny, a political cartoonist currently with The Indian Express. It is a reworking of an old cartoon by Rajinder Puri (right). Rajinder Puri's cartoon, made when Indira Gandhi was in power, is a comment on how the only cartoon that was accepted as 'objective' was one that showed the cartoonist as a mad dog barking at Indira Gandhi. Mrs. Gandhi, in turn, imagining herself as clear of conscience as an 'angel', is unbothered by the barking. Unny reworks this to show that just about every politician right now ("Modi/ Mamata/ Maya") has the same attitude towards any criticism levelled against them.
This cartoon by R K Laxman was made during the India-China War. It was meant to be a comment on Nehru's decisions relating to the War. After it was published in the Times of India, Nehru surprised Laxman by calling him to say "Mr. Laxman, I so enjoyed your cartoon this morning. Can I have a signed enlarged copy to frame?"
The following cartoons are by K Shankar Pillai, one of the earliest political cartoonists of India. He made a series of cartoons mocking some of Prime Minister Nehru's, and later Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's, policies. Contrary to the current trend of muzzling any voices that criticise the government in power, the cartoonist did not face any legal action for questioning or criticising them.
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