Mangalore: Satish Acharya and the 'Pawar' of Cartoons...
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Oct 10: They say politicians are wary of only two kinds of people - journalists and cartoonists. While one uses the pen as his weapon, the other has the power of the brush (not literally in this digitised world, perhaps) - but both of them work with the same passion and purpose - to expose the truth in all its nakedness, whatever the consequence, however bitter the experience.
Kundapur-based Satish Acharya, a renowned cartoonist who is with Mumbai's Mid-Day tabloid and whose works you will also find on ESPN and Sify websites, lately demonstrated to the world the power of this medium, when he had a 'brush' with controversy over a cartoon published in the Mid-Day last month.
A keen follower of Satish's cartoons will tell you that he has this uncanny knack of finding humour in the most drab situations. So when our honourable ministers at the centre declared their assets early last month we simply accepted them, perhaps with a pinch of salt, but he went on to make a cartoon that rubbed a few the wrong side up, and also won him thousands of supporters who simply admired his courage and creativity.
By his own confession, union minister Sharad Pawar has been one of Satish's favourite subjects, and one of the few he can caricature from memory. The ace cartoonist came up with a brilliant caricature of the minister, depicting him as a pole dancer revealing only a bit of his 'assets' (worth Rs 12 crore) amid cries of 'more, more'. Pawar is said to be worth a lot more than he has declared, hence the cartoon.
Satish's work was first pubished in Mid-Day, but no one raised an eyebrow. It was only after he shared it on his blog that it took a controversial turn. On September 17, Abdul Rehman Anjaria, NCP member and chairman of advisory council, Jama Masjid in New Delhi took offence at the cartoon and posted on the blog advising and requesting its removal, and also threatening legal action if he did not apologise to 'Sharad Pawarji, the great leader of our nation'.
Three days later, on September 21, Satish receieved a call from senior police inspector Mukund Pawar of cyber cell of Mumbai police asking Satish to remove the cartoon from his blog immediately, based on a complaint by Anjaria.
"I was told, the complainant thought this was obscene. When I asked Mukund Pawar what he thought about the cartoon, he said he also thought it was obscene and needed to be removed. I was both amazed and amused at the reason given," says Satish on his blog.
The police officer cited section 69 of the Information Technology Act, which in fact, relates to anything that threatens the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order.
Nevetheless, on advice from colleagues that he may be harassed by the police, Satish removed the cartoon but saved it as a draft. In his 15 years as a professional cartoonist, this was the first time he had received a call from police.
But that's only half the story. Determined to defeat the complainant's motive, Satish did the next best thing - make use of people power on the social media. He posted the cartoon on Facebook and Twitter, and the response was overwhelming, to say the least. Netizens, furious at this attempt to silence freedom of speech, shared the cartoon throughout cyberspace. It was tweeted and re-tweeted, posted over and over by everyone who had a glance at it. Says Satish, "It proved that the cartoon wasn't my own viewpoint. The same thought was shared by all those people who shared it."
Boosted by this response, Satish decided to post the cartoon once again on his blog. Meanwhile, Anjaria denied filing a complaint and said that he had only written a letter to the Mumbai Police. On the other hand, Mukund Pawar said he doesn't remember calling up Satish. Nevertheless, he did call, and even called again to confirm its removal.
But it was not just people power. Satish received backing from all corners, and even international media like the BBC, The Sunday Guardian, Open, Yahoo and many others carried articles on the cartoon, lamenting the loss of sense of humour among politicians and the curb on freedom of expression. Pritish Nandy, a well-known journalist and columnist said about Mumbai Police, "I think (the cartoon) is brilliant and it's a shame that Mumbai Crime Department has asked for it to be removed. You (Satish) must ensure that all newspapers all over India report on this and carry the cartoon. We are not living under the Emergency."
Satish Acharya's determination to not give in to politicial pressure is indeed noteworthy. For those who do not know, Satish is from Kundapur, where he still works from, and did his studies at Bhandarkar's college and Mangalore University in Konaje. He is a self-taught cartoonist who quit MBA to become what he is today. He has admirers all over the social media, and his blog alone has thousands of followers. His clients include, apart from Mid-Day, ESPNcricinfo, Sify.com, Santabanta and others.