The man whose cartoon appeared in the Shiv Sena’s newspaper and mocked the recent protests by the Marathas, has apologised for offending and hurting the powerful upper caste in Maharashtra, which forms as much as a third of the state’s population.
Sriniwas Prabhudesai’s cartoon ran on Sunday. Yesterday, the office of the newspaper, Saamana, was vandalised near Mumbai by members of the Sambhaji Brigade, a political outfit that represents the Marathas and is known for its aggressive tactics.
The cartoon has also reportedly upset a section of Sena leaders who are Marathas and had threatened to resign but have been persuaded not to by the party’s top bosses.
“I’m an artist not a political caricaturist,” said Mr Prabhudesai, who has clarified his stand in a column in Saamana as well. He said the cartoon is being blown out of proportion and that he did not intend to offend or hurt the Marathas, who have launched a large movement demanding affirmative action policies.
In recent years, their economic, political and social power, derived from their vast farm holdings, has been dented by the decline in the agriculture sector and they now want a share of Maharashtra’s government jobs and educational institutions to be reserved for them. Though their sheer strength has all political parties backing them, Maharashtra has already hit the 50 per cent cap ordered by the Supreme Court on reserved jobs and college places for disadvantaged castes, so it’s tough to add new castes as beneficiaries of “quotas.”
The contentious cartoon spoofs the muk or silent marches being held by the Marathas after a young girl from the community was raped and killed in July, allegedly by young Dalit men.
The Marathas also 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.
In a press release yesterday, the Shiv Sena said the cartoon must be treated as just that and not be taken as a signal of the party being anti-Maratha.