Saturday, January 9, 2010

The witty Indian media

A Delhi-based newspaper Mail Today carried a cartoon depicting an Australian police officer in a Ku Klux Klan hood saying "we are yet to determine the nature of the crime". It referred to the murder of an Indian student Nitin Garg in Melbourne a few days ago.

All through last summer (or Australian winter depending on which hemisphere you live in), Australia was rife with protests by Indian students against a spate of attacks on them. The students claimed they were racially motivated - "curry bashing" as it was called. The police and the Australian government were sure they were mere robberies and petty crime. The Indian media went ballistic with outrage over what was happening to Indians in Australia, and has kept up its reporting on the issue since.

Sid from Oz thinks the joke was in bad taste. But as an Indian who will eventually make home in Australia, I was rather tickled by the newspaper's cartoon. I think it is perfectly appropriate to question the Australian police's actions and statements. I was happy that the Indian media and the government are concerned about Indian citizens living elsewhere. Because as I am quickly realising, no matter which government you pay your taxes to, your rights and dignity are critically dependent on which country's passport you hold. Besides, the cartoon itself was funny and punchy (though, ironically, the joke would have been lost on the Indian middle class to which most Australian immigrants belong. I doubt they would have any clue of or interest in the history of the civil rights movement).

That said, I can't help but wonder why such outrage, irony and wit is not displayed with respect to BJP attacking Muslims, MNS terrorising the North Indians in Mumbai or the Indian police which has one of the worst human rights record in the world. I wish the newspaper would save some such sharp digs for them too.


Madhavan said...

Even I dont know KKK's history. Disagree with you. Indian papers do make fun of BJP, but the Aussie kind is more jingoistic and sells better as it reflects the self-interest of the English-speaking middle class.
Fact is that like India, Australia is constitutionally and politically multi-cultural, while socially ambiguous. That does create issues

globalbabble said...

Most people migrating to Australia are not from the English-speaking middle classes of India. They are from back of the beyond villages of Punjab, and usually work there as taxi drivers, truck drivers, restaurant help and domestic servants. (Most wouldn't have even heard of Ku Klux Klan.)

Even if they were from the middle-class would it make it more acceptable for them to be treated badly.

I agree that perhaps the media's outrage is overblown. But if the Indian media doesn't talk about the "social ambiguity" that is affecting Indians there, then who will.

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

I saw the cartoon after following a story of Australian officials started crying foul(with one distinguished person said that it lacked creativity and wit) over a certain cartoon in an Indian newspaper. Two things struck me:
1. How did the officials get hold of the cartoon in the first place
2. The cartoonist's effort should really be appreciated, at least he has a sense of history and humour. Most cartoonists in India today seems elicit yawns rather than smiles. Of course, there are guys like Ajit Ninan are still around.

globalbabble said...

That's the thing with humour - people on whom the joke is made seldom appreciate it.

I did meet a few Australians who had whole heartedly supported the Danish cartoon making fun of Muslims but thought this cartoon was out of line.