Under the pretense of a city-wide beautification effort, Indian political cartoonist Satish Acharya has had one of his recent cartoons removed from a public display in Kundapura.
Acharya is a self-taught cartoonist who tackles a variety of topics, including political corruption and social issues in India. His most recent piece, pulled from a billboard in Kundapura known as “Cartoon Corner,” depicted Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi hiding behind Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as Prime Minister Narendra Modi threateningly approaches.
Upon putting the cartoon up, a Congress Party leader called the work offensive and asked for it to be removed. “I draw cartoons on all political parties,” Acharya told News18.com. “I use Cartoon Corner hoarding to display some of them. In the past nobody troubled me… The very next day, Kundapura municipality removed it on the pretext of clearing the city of billboards.”
Although the Congress Party denies any involvement in the removal, Acharya sees the action as an act of censorship — a trend that has been alarmingly on the rise in India. From newspapers to cartoonists, actions taken against the press and freedom of expression has fostered a culture of fear and self-censorship in the country. “Self-censorship is like a termite eating society from within,” noted cartoonist Orijit Sen in an interview with The Caravan. “Once people have got that fear in their heads, that they cannot speak about certain things, that they’re better off keeping their mouths shut, that they’re afraid to say things — that’s when the battle has been lost.”
Despite the hostile climate for cartoonists and journalists, artists like Acharya continue to produce and tackle important social issues through their works. In response to the recent removal of his cartoon, Acharya reminds us that “the Congress [Party] should be worried about the challenges before the party. It should not be afraid of a harmless cartoon.”
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!