The night I lay down to sleep after I returned from jail, my child came running to me and lay down on my chest sobbing. It felt as thought the kids who were ablaze were holding me tight and crying.G Bala, Cartoonist
Hitting back at allegations of defaming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the Tirunelveli Collector, and the Police Commissioner in a caricature, cartoonist Bala drew an evocative cartoon with the lines, ‘I am not scared. I will continue my cartoons.’
The image shows Bala holding on to a paintbrush while a policeman, propelled by a lotus winding key – symbolic of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – holds him by the neck. Cartoons of a common man, a pen, a microphone and a smartphone are trying to hold the cop back – expressing how the people, the press and social media stood by his right to freedom of expression.
The cartoonist landed in trouble with the Tirunelveli police in Tamil Nadu after publishing a cartoon that targeted the state administration over the immolation of a family hounded by usurers. The cartoon shows a naked Nellai Police Commissioner, Collector and Chief Minister trying to cover themselves up with wads of cash, as they turn a blind eye to a child's burning body.
The cartoon clearly stung the district collector who filed a complaint against the cartoonist. Bala was booked under Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the IPC and was granted bail later.
The arrest had drawn a lot of flak from activists, journalists, former police officers and the public.
In his recent Facebook post, he clarified that he found no better way to express his angst and that he had nothing personal against the authorities depicted.
Many cartoonists have depicted the President and Prime Minister in a similar way and this is the way cartoonists all over the world express to criticise those in power.
Bala wrote an honest version of how things played out for him once he published his cartoon. He alleged that he was forcefully arrested by the police as if he was ‘a dangerous terrorist.’
With more confidence than ever, Bala says he will continue to highlight the vices in the society and hold those in power accountable.
Bala has never been a newbie to controversies. In the past, he has been accused of misogyny in his illustrations and has attracted the ire of politicians and activists alike. His cartoon featuring DMK chief Karunanidhi and Congress leader Kushboo in 2014 had caused an uproar among women activists who labelled the cartoon as sexist and highly distasteful.
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