No Laughing Matter: Ambedkar cartoons,1932-1956, an effort Straighten distorted lines

A compilation of cartoons published during Ambedkar’s time stands testimony to how the Dalit leader has been targeted.

Published: 09th July 2019 12:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th July 2019 12:56 PM   |  A+A-

Unnamati Syama Sundar

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: A book launch event of Unnamati Syama Sundar’s “No Laughing Matter: Ambedkar cartoons, 1932-1956" was held at Lamakaan in the city recently.

The book is a compilation of 122 cartoons published in major newspapers during the prime time of Ambedkar’s political career.

Every cartoon with historical and political annotations given by Syama Sundar tries to debunk the casteism and hatred against Ambedkar that was portrayed in those cartoons.

Retrospection through this book will help us in understanding the political and media narrative in the current times of majoritarian tendencies in society. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion attended by esteemed members like political thinker Kancha Ilaiah, senior journalist Akhileswari Ramagoud, cartoonist Shankar Pamarthy, among others.

Unnamati Syama Sundar is a research scholar and cartoonist from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Talking about the times that Ambedkar was subjected to abuse in major English newspapers, he said, “Indian cartoonists injected casteism in their work. But Ambedkar was always ahead of those cartoonists and used to ignore the kind of cheap humor they produce. Sexist and misogynist elements were used in those cartoons to target him. The whole idea was to project Ambedkar negatively.”

“This book reminds us of how responsible a cartoonist should be and it could act as a manual for upcoming cartoonists. There is a fine line between healthy humor and outright abuse. But most of those cartoons were casteist and filled with cheap humor and sexism,” said Shankar Pamarthy. “Whether it is colonial India or today’s independent India, the propaganda of majoritarian views in biased media will always suppress minority views. An informed citizenry is the only solution”, opined Syama Sundar.

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