Keshav Shankar Pillai as prophet
K. Shankar Pillai was probably the most famous cartoonist in the early years of independent India. His magazine, Shankar’s Weekly, shut down during the Emergency.
This last issue carried an editorial which has been quoted in the context of action against cartoonists in the recent past, first by a state government, then by the parliament, and most recently by an NGO. The full text was recently carried by Outlook. A para worth reading is:
This is what brings us to the nub of the matter. In our first editorial we made the point that the our function was to make our readers laugh – at the world, at pompous leaders, at humbug, at foibles, at ourselves. But, what are the people who have a developed sense of humour? It is a people with a certain civilised norms of behaviour, where there is tolerance and a dash of compassion.
The lack of civilized norms of behaviour, of tolerance for others and of compassion show up in many places. How else can one imagine that a law against sedition still stands in a country which guarantees freedom of expression. Perhaps if we each insist on tolerance and compassion in our political life, on every evening’s debate we see on TV, for example, then we might be pleasantly surprised by the humour and joy that could bring. The flipside is that the politics of intolerance must be identified clearly, and brought to swift legal conclusion.
This is clear to all of us who think about these things, but what does one do when the state itself is complicit in the politics of intolerance?