In the Sunday edition of the Saamna, Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, was a cartoon published made by Sriniwas Prabhudesai. The cartoon drew an immense flak from the Shiv Sena leaders, political parties, and even ally party- BJP. The cartoon hints at the ‘silent march’ being taken out by the Maratha community. Shiv Sena stayed low profile earlier on this agitation but since this cartoon, it has put the party in the backfoot.
The antagonistic cartoon caricatures the Kopardi rape and murder case, and the muk or silent marches being held by the Marathas after a young girl was raped and killed in July, allegedly by young Dalit men.
The cartoon apparently has upset a section of Shiv Sena leaders who are Marathas, and had threatened to resign but have been persuaded to not by the party’s top leaders. A pro-Maratha social organization ‘Sambhaji Brigade’ were so enraged by the cartoon that they stoned the Saamna Office in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday. Reportedly, three youths had arrived in a vehicle at the Saamna printing press building at around 1:45 pm. They called the guard of the press and requested him to take a letter, but as the guard approached the vehicle, the youths got down and rushed towards the press building and allegedly pelted the building with stones and fled. Damage was minimal, two-three glasses on the building’s outer wall were broken.
Police reached the spot on receiving information and lodged a complaint by the office-bearers at Sanpada police station. Hemant Nagarale, Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner, confirmed the incident and assured that appropriate actions will be taken against the culprits.
The condemning of the cartoon continued and Sambhaji Brigade’s spokesperson Shivanand Bhanuse said, “The attack was spontaneous and an expression of emotions of Maratha community.” He also demanded an apology from Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and Saamna’s executive editor Sanjay Raut, saying that they must apologize to the women of Maharashtra.
On Wednesday, the cartoonist Prabhudesai apologized for hurting and offending the powerful upper caste in Maharashtra. He clarified, “I’m and artist not a political caricaturist”. He added that the cartoon was being taken too far because he never had the intention of hurting the sentiments of the Marathas, who are doing a good work by launching a large movement demanding affirmative action policies.
Recent years have shown the economic, political and social power of Marathas are derived from their vast farm holdings but has been dented by a decline in the agriculture sector and they want a share of Maharashtra’s government jobs and reserved educational institutions seats now. Though their sheer strength has all the political parties backing them, the State has already hit a cap of 50 per cent ordered by the Supreme Court on reserved jobs and college places for disadvantaged castes, therefore, it’s tough to add new castes as beneficiaries of ‘quotas’. The Marathas also wish for a wider action against Dalits, who according to them misuse the vast protection offered to them by special law to prevent and punish violence against them.
The Shiv Sena have said in a press release that the cartoon must be treated as a cartoon and not be taken as a signal of the party being anti-Maratha.