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Fear factor drives cartoons off pandals

- Organisers afraid of penalty, artists defend pictures

Cartoons and caricatures of renowned persons have slowly faded away from Durga Puja pandals over the years because of the administration’s displeasure.

Even a few years ago, cartoons of Lalu Prasad, Rabri Devi, Ram Vilas Paswan were all over the place during the festive season.

“The practice of making caricatures and cartoons during Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja is quite old. Besides being artwork, they were a source of entertainment as well,” Pawan, a renowned cartoonist of the city, told The Telegraph.

But he admitted that at times things became serious when direct attacks were made against an individual.

“I remember in 2004 when Rabri Devi was the chief minister, I made a cartoon of Lalu Prasad, which was displayed at Dakbungalow Chowk. After seeing the caricature, then district magistrate, the late Gautam Gos-wami, raised an objection and ordered its removal. Later, La-lu Prasad came to know about it and asked the administration to put it back,” Pawan said.

Even though the district administration never ordered a complete ban on the practice but diktats to puja organisers every year created a sense of fear and discouraged them from putting up caricatures of well-known people.

Another painter and art critic Manoj Kumar Bachchan echoed Pawan. “Besides having an entertainment value, cartoons and caricatures send a message. It is a healthy practice. But one should be careful to not target any community, caste and religion. Again it should be ensured that things not accepted in society are not displayed,” he said.

On why the number of cartoons has been on the decline, Kanchan Kumar, a member of Sri Sri Durga Puja Samiti Mahavir Sthan of Raja Bazar, said: “We wanted to project issues like FDI, cooking gas, war of words between Lalu and Nitish Kumar through cartoons. However, we are a little bit scared that somebody may complain to the police. We might face a heavy penalty in that case. These apprehensions have kept us away from the practice of putting up cartoons.”

Some people, however, said cartoons should not be allowed at pandals.

Former principal of College of Arts and Crafts, Patna, Shyam Sharma said: “I think there should not be any cartoons in pandals. People visit these places to offer prayers. Cartoons and caricature should not be mixed with a pious practice. Cartoons are not bad, but puja pandals are not the place for their exhibition.”

District magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh said cartoons were not banned during Durga Puja. “The district administration has never banned cartoons. It is a great source of expression. The cartoonists just need to be careful not to hurt the feelings of anyone. I do not think there is a need to form a separate body to decide on the cartoons, as a law already exists on that.”