28/09/2016 4:28 PM IST | Updated 28/09/2016 4:40 PM IST

Why Shiv Sena In Maharashtra Is Facing Protest Over A Cartoon

Ironic much?

Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Supporters of Shiv Sena shout slogans during a protest against militant attack in Jammu.

Sriniwas Prabhudesai, the man whose cartoon appeared in the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamana, that apparentlymocked the recent protests by the Marathas, has apologised for offending and hurting the powerful upper caste in Maharashtra. However, the protests now demand an apology from executive editor Sanjay Raut and Sena president-cum-Saamana editor Uddhav Thackeray.

On Wednesday, the office of its newspaper office in Mumbai was vandalised by members of the Sambhaji Brigade, a political outfit that represents the Marathas. Police officials said a few windows of the office were broken. A separate group also, reportedly, threw ink at the door of the paper's bureau in Thane.

The cartoon has also broken the unity between Sena leaders, and some of them, mostly the Marathas, have threatened to resign.

"I'm an artist, not a political caricaturist," Prabhudesai said. He said the cartoon is being blown out of proportion and that he did not intend to offend or hurt the Marathas.

The Maratha Protests

In the last month, the Marathas have been holding 'silent' marches across the state after the brutal gangrape and murder of a 15-year-old girl from the community in Kopardi village in Ahmednagar, allegedly by young Dalit men.

The Marathas are also demanding a 16% quota in jobs and education. They want wider action against Dalits, who, they say, misuse the vast protection offered to them by a special law (the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act) to prevent and punish violence against them.

What Was The Cartoon?

The cartoon that was published on Saamana shows a man kissing a woman, who is holding a placard saying "Mooka Morcha" (kiss protest). Meanwhile, one of the onlookers is seen saying, "The over-enthusiastic protesters seem to have misinterpreted their protest."

The phrase was a pun on "Mook Morcha" -- which means silent protests, the type of demonstrations being held by the Maratha community for a while now, across Maharashtra.

The cartoon mocks Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students. A student, wearing a T-shirt with 'JNU' written on it, can be seen saying, "To condemn the Pakistan-led Uri attack, I will give up cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine and gutkha for two days."

It also raises the issue of the spread of dengue using martyred soldiers. It shows a cop looking at a dead soldier, saying, "Something's amiss. This soldier died as a result of dengue and not a terror attack."

Why Did It Offend The Marathas?

While Shiv Sena, the party not known to be a champion of freedom of speech, has the right to publish anything that it wants to, mocking a crime with a cartoon shows a lack of sensitivity.

The spokesperson of the Sambhaji brigade, Shivanand Banuse, told PTI, "We are condemning a cartoon which was published in Saamana. Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and Saamana's executive editor Sanjay Raut must apologise to the women of Maharashtra. The attack was spontaneous and an expression of emotions of the Maratha community."

Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, a Congress leader said, "We already knew Sena is an anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim party. But through this cartoon, we now know it is also an anti-Maratha party."

Nationalist Congress Party's Dhananjay Munde said that the cartoon has "disrespected martyred soldiers, their families, the police as well as women."

Social Media Calls It 'Ironical'

The Shiv Sena party has been known for vandalisation. So it wasn't surprising when social media pointed out that the situation is ironical.

A party that is known for its strong and mostly chest-thumping nationalism failed to show the most basic respect to martyred soldiers through its cartoon.

Its recent tirade was against Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan. Sena leaders said they will not allow Pakistani actors to promote their films in Maharashtra.

Last year, Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar and former cricketers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar had to return to Pakistan after 70 Shiv Sena activists stormed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office in Mumbai, asking its President Shashank Manohar not to resume cricketing ties between India and Pakistan. Earlier, they had prevented Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali to perform in the city.

A couple of months back, the party protested against comedian Tanmay Bhat for making a Snapchat video in which he allegedly mocked Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar. "I guess Tanmay Bhat and all involved in such actions (making fun of Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar) are sick. These people should be whipped in public," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had said.

Raut had said that there would be "no culture in the nation if non-political leaders like Sachin and Lata ji are criticised in the name of freedom of speech and expression".

We wonder what he will say now. Does such a cartoon qualify as 'culture' in the Shiv Sena's eyes? Can mocking martyred soldiers and making light of a sexual assault case be considered decent?

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