Australian cartoon mocking India's postion at climate summit called 'racist'

Veteran cartoonist Bill Leak seemed to be critical of India’s position at the CoP 21 to build a ‘solar alliance’. Photo: Special Arrangement  

A cartoon that mocked India’s climate change position, in the Australian newspaper on Monday has created a storm online in India, even as it was slammed by Australian politicians for being 'racist'.

The cartoon, by veteran Bill Leak, who is known for his often offensive caricatures, showed poor and thin Indians being forced to eat solar panels that were provided by the UN, and was criticised by newspapers worldwide. Entitled “Aid a la mode”, the cartoon showed a poor family chopping solar panels in aid from the United Nations, and “trying it with Mango chutney”.

Mr. Leak seemed to refer to criticism of India’s position at the recently concluded Climate Change conference COP 21 in Paris, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had >pushed for a “solar alliance” to help poor countries use solar technology as a key part of their renewable energy commitments. India has decided to raise its renewable energy capacity to 175 GW of which it hopes to produce 100 GW from solar energy, and had wanted developed countries to fund it as a part of what it calls “climate justice”.

Reacting to the cartoon online, public commentator Tushar Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson) called it a “racist creation of uneducated arrogance.”

Hundreds of others wrote in with outrage on both Twitter and Facebook social network sites, calling for an apology from the newspaper. Australian Labour party senator Lisa Singh, who is the first Australian of South Asian descent to be elected to the Australian parliament wrote “Incredibly disappointed by Bill Leak's cartoon today. Shows complete ignorance of India and insults every Indian.”

However, not everyone saw the cartoon as insulting to India. Centre for Science and Environment Director-General Sunita Narain, who has been particularly critical of the COP21 climate change deal that was signed on Saturday, which she calls a “shocking sellout” for the developing world, said the cartoon should be seen as “the factual position of poor countries after the deal”.

“The poor of the world including the Indian poor have been handed a raw deal, and the responsibility for low carbon emissions, while the rich are not doing the same. So the developed world has shipped its problems to the developing world,” she told The Hindu when asked about her reaction to the cartoon.

Last week, another cartoon portraying India as an elephant which had blocked the tracks for the climate change deal in the New York Times had received some criticism too. And in September 2014, the NYT had apologised for a cartoon that showed India as a man wearing a dhoti and leading a cow, trying to enter an elite Space club, after India successfully completed its operational mission to Mars.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 4:11:29 AM |

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