Kerala BJP’s mouthpiece Janmabhoomi, which had carried a casteist cartoon mocking CM Pinarayi Vijayan on the Sabarimala issue, has fired the cartoonist responsible for the offensive content. The daily will also publish an apology on Thursday, expressing regret for publishing the cartoon. The cartoon had attracted much wrath in the state, with the BJP having to cut a sorry face.
The cartoon column, called 'Drisakshi' or eyewitness, appears on page-one of the newspaper every day. On Monday, the cartoon showed two people discussing the privilege motion that has been moved against the Chief Minister for organising the Women's Wall, an event to explain the government’s stand on Sabarimala. A third person is shown saying that such things should have been kept in mind while giving a plum post to a man who used to climb coconut trees. The cartoon evidently alludes to the caste of the Chief Minister, who belongs to the Thiyya caste. The Thiyyas are a community of traditional toddy-tappers and are among the oppressed communities considered lower down the Hindu social hierarchy, and the implication was that a person from a toddy tapper’s family is not apt for the job.
The cartoon had sparked outrage across the state, with even non-Leftists and non-supporters of Pinarayi Vijayan speaking out against it.
The cartoonist Gireesh Moozhippadam, a freelancer who has been drawing cartoons on the daily for 5 years, laments about the loss of his job. “I was told on Tuesday that I need not draw cartoons for the daily anymore. There was an editor who used to check my cartoons before publishing and it should have been checked this time also. This time the editors might have got busy with some other thing. Now that I have lost an earning,” Gireesh says.
While the cartoonist says that usually every cartoon he sends is checked by the editorial board, a top person with the editorial board of the newspaper says that the process failed this time. “We regret publishing the cartoon. Somehow, it was overlooked by us. It shouldn’t have been published. We are publishing an apology on Thursday, since we regret it. As of now we have asked the cartoonist not to work for us,” a person holding a top post in the daily told TNM.
Gireesh says he had no intention to ridicule the Chief Minister. “I am from Malappuam and the phrase used in the cartoon is how locals use it here, that every job should be given to the apt person. I am from a CPI(M) family and his caste or the work associated with it never came to my mind when I drew the cartoon,” the cartoonist claims.