A cartoon is a cartoon is a cartoon, so goes the chorus from some quarters with vested interests. Those who adhere to and propagate such a bend of mind want to say that the cartoonist can go any length in laying bare his mind however foul, vicious, vitriolic and even of underbelly it may be. It means that he can, with his imagination running riot, indulge in character assassination, distort facts, mock people, hurt religious sentiments or go against any moral code. That goes to say cartoonists think they are without borders or without any sense of moral responsibility to society. That, in the name of creative freedom, they can sketch any depraved caricature for public consumption, canlampoon people, indulge in unethical, racist, sexist vibes, anti-religious, communally provoking cartooning and even invade people’s privacy. Such may be scribbles, scrawls or animations, but are decidedly public statements once they are in public domain.
Who said a cartoon is an innocent scrawl and scribble? It is invariably a statement, a public literary statement when published. It may look innocent or funny or jocular but it is studded with a message meant to educate or brainwash the public or distort people’s thinking or perception. Is that so innocent an act like a child’s play? Surely not.
India takes pride in a host of famous cartoonists like Abu Abraham, Sudhir Dhar, Kutty, RajinderPuri, Malayattoor Ramkrishnan, K.K. Raghavan, O.V. Vijayan, Mario Miranda and many others. Such famous cartoonists had a message, social, moral, ethical, political etc. Decent cartoonists do not descend to the morass of depraved imagination or thinking and do not allow their moral compass togo haywire. Over the centuries, cartoonists have attempted to educate the public in very concise manner through cartooning. But, those who indulged in depraved cartooning have gone down the drain after being pulled up or made to apologise or compensate for the damage done to people by character assassination or defamation.
No cartoonist can hide under the excuse that freedom of expression or freedom of creativity allows him to express his thoughts or prostitute his creative talent to illustrate things in depraved manner.
The most recent controversial cartoon about Bishop Franco holding the crozier with an undergarment is a depraved form of cartooning. It is not just a sketch. It is a public statement meant to hurt Christian sentiments and to show Christianity in bad picture. Giving free vein to the creativity of an artist by pandering to his depraved sexual imagination is not noble art. Here, apparently, the artist was asked to draw the cartoon for a magazine. Selling his creative talent as a negotiable commodity to create a depraved picture has many implications. It is character assassination even as the case is pending in the court to decide if the accused person is guilty. Hence, this cartoon can be taken as a public statement/verdict pooh-poohing the land’s judicial process with the cartoonist playing the judge and the executioner in one stroke. It has, moreover, insulted Christian religion because the cross is a most revered and venerable symbol for Christian devotees. To replace it with an undergarment is decidedly a public statement meant to insult Christianity.
Would the cartoonist in question or his sponsors dare to publicly depict a cartoon by hanging a ‘langoti’ on a Trishul just because a Hindu Sadhu is alleged to have committed a sexual crime? In such an eventuality, they will be drawn, stoned, and quartered for insulting religious sentiments.
The Christian resentment spilling out onto the streets in a peaceful manner is meant to express our righteous anger against insulting Christianity. Here, as far as we are concerned, Franco is not our object of interest. He is under judicial scrutiny. His fate will be decided by the courts. If he is found not guilty, he will be released. But, if found guilty, he will have to face the music. But, our concern here is that the cartoonist and his troupe have gate-crashed into the area of the cross of Christianity. It is a communal and anti-Christian act which calls for harshest condemnation.