I spent yesterday in Delhi speaking to packed rooms of intense students at Amity University and at the International School of Media and Entertainment in Noida. Speaking to the college audiences here is great fun.
In the evening I met with about twenty Indian cartoonists at the American Center in Delhi; the handsome group in the photo below:
What was remarkable about the meeting is that all of the Indian cartoonists wanted to make the point to me that their careers are in peril. Cartoonists in India feel they are being squeezed out by timid editors who are afraid of the reactions of government officials and powerful patrons who fear negative reactions to strong opinions in editorial cartoons. The cartoonists told me about job losses and repeated stories about how the only work is for illustrations, at very low fees. They paint a grim picture.
They were all aware of a recent issue here where historical cartoons are being edited out of text books. They knew about Aseem Trivedi and other cartoonists who are facing prosecution, but they describe the problem more as self-censorship, and a fear of the adverse attention that cartoons draw. A number of them described the situation as the “death” of their profession.
Frankly, I was surprised by the tone, looking at the newspapers here it seems that there is a lively debate, and I see Prime Minister Singh savaged in cartoons every day. The newspapers are filled with stories of the current government coal scandal with wagging fingers pointed this way and that to blame for every social and economic problem.
That said, I had a great time with the cartoonists, I got to see much of their work, I was flattered that they all knew my work, and I was impressed at their professionalism and commitment to our art form. There is a lot of talent and promise in India for cartoonists, even though the mood is glum.