[MJR] Women on top: A caricature and a cartoon

16 Apr,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


This week, we have to share the honours between two very important women. First – this is not because she is more important but because she sort of is, in an official kind of way – the President of India, Pratibha Patil.


According to a group of ex-soldiers (you know the lot, formerly noble and so on and now a bit, well, suspect) have claimed that 2.6 lakh acres of army land in Pune, meant for housing jawans, has been taken over by the President to build her retirement home. If that wasn’t bad enough, two colonial-era bungalows have been broken down in the process.


Now everyone knows, especially since Adarsh, that no one – not the army, not the government – actually wants to build anything for jawans. Since Adarsh, we also know that senior defence personnel, bureaucrats and politicians will happily take any government land cheap and make luxury homes for themselves and their families.


Given Pune’s proximity to Mumbai, it is possible that the President was inspired by the Adarsh adarsh (that’s a pun by the way. It is clear, I make this clear, as we approach the next noosemaker, because it is possible that I will find my own neck in a noose. Jokes are verboten you see).


Still, in all the fire and outrage – now an essential ingredient to any dish in modern India – we still don’t know how the President acquired this army land for herself. Did she ride in on silver, flashing her firearms? Did she use her position as commander and chief of the armed forces, revenge for those hours of standing in the Republic Day parade with her hand to her forehead? Or did someone do all this for her?


* * *


And then we reach the Great Supreme Leader who is incapable of staying out of the noose and the news. The indomitable Mamata Banerjee, crusader against communists and cartoonists. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a chemistry professor at Jadavpur University, apparently a hotbed of dangerous anti-Didi-ists, forwarded a cartoon which used dialogues from Satyajit Ray’s film Sonar Kellato poke a little gentle fun at the removal of Dinesh Trivedi as railway minister.


Mahapatra and a neighbour were, therefore, arrested and kept in jail for one night for not only forwarding this hurtful and nasty cartoon but also outraging the modesty of a woman. They were also beaten up by members of the Trinamool Congress for the same crimes. The police, also upset at this mocking of the Great Supreme Didi, made a mockery of the justice system.


In all this fun and games, could Didi be far behind? She promptly piped up saying those who commit crimes will be punished. Quite right.


It goes without saying that Mahapatra’s act of forwarding the cartoon showed him to be a communist and therefore deserving of every punishment meted out to him. It also proves that West Bengal or Poschim Bongo or whatever it’s called, has to stop these illegal acts of laughing, giggling, sniggering, smirking at Didi’s expense. Is it any wonder that Dada has left the Kolkata Knight Riders and joined Pratibha Patil in Pune?


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