In the aftermath of the Kathua and Unnao rapes, there has been sizeable public outrage. Amidst protests and photo campaigns, many have also taken to express themselves in the form of art and cartoons.
One such cartoon that you may have seen doing the rounds, is one where Sita, upon learning about the sexual crimes tells her husband, the Hindu deity Ram, “I was so glad I was kidnapped by Ravan and not your bhakts!” This was in reference to the protests held by a right-wing outfit called the Hindu Ekta Manch, demanding the release of Deepak Khajuria, an accused in the Kathua rape case.
Many were quick to take offence to the cartoon, terming it “anti-Hindu”. And on Saturday, the Hindu Sangathan in Hyderabad filed a police complaint against the maker of the cartoon – journalist Swathi Vadlamudi, as well as another journalist who had earlier shared the cartoon, for “hurting the sentiments of Hindus”.
Meanwhile, Swathi, who shared her cartoon on Facebook on April 11, has been at the receiving end of plenty of online abuse. And the irony is that the people slamming the cartoon took the same abusive and misogynistic tones that the cartoon was pointing out.
“I have been making cartoons for a long time now and have made them on controversial issues earlier as well. But it never invited this kind of backlash,” a bewildered Swathi tells TNM.
Since this particular cartoon though, her social media, including WhatsApp, has been flooded with all kinds of abuse. “Most of it is extremely misogynistic and aimed at silencing me,” she observes.
One person for instance, insinuated that Swathi would meet the same fate as journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru in September, 2017. Another accused her of taking money from the Muslim community for writing anti-saffron posts and being part of the terrorist outfit ISIS.
She was even threatened with a Charlie Hebdo style attack - the French weekly magazine’s Paris office was attacked by two armed men in January 2015 after they published a satirical cartoon on Prophet Mohammed. The shooting killed 12 people and injured several others.
There were many, of course, who simply resorted to slut shaming her.
On April 13, Swathi responded to the people abusing her online. Read her Facebook post here:
Following this too, Swathi’s Facebook inbox continued to be inundated with messages calling her a “coward” for not quietly taking the “backlash” for posting the cartoon.
Swathi admits that all of this, the death threats especially, have indeed frightened her. “I’m an earning member of my family. They are also worried about me,” she says.
However, she makes it clear that she won’t stop making cartoons. “I don’t think I’d be doing right by myself if I stopped. Besides, this is just reflective of the political climate in the country right now. And it’s at times like these that it’s most important to continue resisting,” Swathi says.