How Political Cartoons Have Been Helping Democracy Since Time Immemorial

Posted on April 24, 2013

By Sumeet Kaur:

What is it that has the power to hit the government of a country that pages full of news reports and editorials cannot? Humour is the best way to expose silly and old fashioned ways of thinking. We all love humour, fun and satire in our lives which otherwise is so full of anxieties. What else can be the best way to depict humour and satire other than a few strokes of the pen? There is definitely something in this small sketch; the more appropriate word would be a cartoon, which makes it so appealing to the public.

The Greek Cavemen who drew picture representations on caves may be thought of as the world’s first cartoonists. Late K. Shankar Pillai can be considered the Father of Indian Cartooning, just as the legendary David Low is of cartooning in the world. Earlier on, it was just the newspapers where one could find most cartoons but today, all mediums of communication be it advertisements, films, hoardings and not to forget the Internet mainly social media i.e. Faceboook, Twitter and the likes, all widely use and share political cartoons to their maximum advantage. Political cartoons have in fact become a popular communication tool and a highly favourable form of artistic expression.

cartoonI am fascinated as I look at these pictorial delights to imagine how a cartoonist captivates people, with a few strokes comes loaded with wit, satire and punch all at the same time. From the eyes of a cartoonist we can see the world as best as we can. There is nothing wrong in being critical when necessary. Sometimes we agree with what they express and sometimes don’t. For example, R.K. Laxman’s won the Raman Magsaysay Award in 1984 for his accomplishment and there is no doubt that his works have attracted global attention.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”. A journalist and a cartoonist definitely have some elements of commonality, to make the public as well as the government at least think and to provide a check on power. The government fears both the journalist and the cartoonist who no doubt have the power to turn the tables with their words and few strokes. Be it any situation, any happening, cartoonists are ready with their latest innovative creations. Very recently, they paid their tribute to Margaret Thatcher in their very own style. At the same time we cannot forget Barack Obama’s cartoons at the time of presidential elections which ran into hundreds and thousands. Right from the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee to spiritual guru Baba Ramadev, from Anna Hazare to women’s rights and gang rapes in Delhi; all are the subjects taken up by cartoonists. There is no personality who can escape the eyes of a cartoonist. Art is a good medium to say what you are not supposed to say, to object to what you are not supposed to object to. It is in fact an individual’s expression of his political and social beliefs which has inspired young people across the world.

Last year a cartoonist named Aseem Trivedi (who like every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression , as is laid down in the Indian Constitution) tried to express his views on corruption in our system by his cartoons like ‘Bhrashtameva Jayate’ meaning ‘Corruption Alone Triumphs’ instead of the original ‘Satyameva Jayate’ meaning ‘Truth alone Triumphs’ in his version of the National Emblem, and this resulted in his imprisonment which was in the true sense a mockery of democracy.

cartoon 1

Another case worth mentioning is related to the inclusion of political cartoons in school textbooks. This led to lot of debates and discussions at that time in the parliament as if it was something that insulted the politicians. Political cartoons are not actually a mockery of the system but an open forum for discussion. The best cartoons have the ability to present an idea or issue in a very clear and striking way either in a light hearted and humorous or a bitter and savage or satirical tone. They indeed allow us to enjoy the world that God has created which is replete with imperfections and weirdness.


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