Many cartoonists are prophets in a sense. That would be clear if we study some recent events. Many decades ago R.K. Laxman drew a cartoon which showed a biologist announcing that the local typhus virus had jaundice.

At present, the Central government is busy eradicating a potentially calamitous outbreak of a humour epidemic. It all began in Kolkata when the mighty Mamata Banerjee, sensing imminent danger, got a professor arrested for publicising a cartoon about her. This aroused widespread indignation among intellectuals. While she was busy arresting some more people for protesting the arrest of the professor, the anti-cartoon virus seemed to have spread to Delhi where Ms. Mayawati warned the government of dire consequences if it did not take immediate corrective action against a 1949 Shankar cartoon in an NCERT textbook about the slow pace of Constitution-making involving Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Nehru. Mr. Kapil Sibal, the HRD Minister, was alarmed at this and told the Lok Sabha that he had ordered removal of the offensive cartoon.

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That was not enough because most other members were apprehensive that the cartoon virus from Kolkata had by then been infected by the vile humour virus and posed an imminent danger of a humour epidemic! Profound wisdom was conspicuous when member after member warned the government not to allow the impressionable minds of children to be influenced by these cartoons. Mr. Kapil Sibal agreed with the members and said a humour outbreak would be nothing less than a calamity. He has since ordered that school textbooks should not contain any cartoons. The law enforcers, of course, could see that the textbooks are rid of the dangerous cartoons, but they are at a loss to decide what to do with children found laughing or even just smiling!

(The writer, a former News Editor of The Hindu, can be contacted at gdwarki@yahoo.com)

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