No Laughing Matter
The Ambedkar Cartoons, 1932–1956
This history like no other asks you to consider what you are laughing at.
In 2012, the inclusion of a 1949 cartoon by Shankar showing Jawaharlal Nehru whipping a snail-borne B.R. Ambedkar in a school textbook, evoked dalit protest, and a savarna counter on the grounds of artistic freedom. Scholar and cartoonist Unnamati Syama Sundar then undertook an archival survey of cartoons on Ambedkar in the English language press. The result, a collection of over a hundred cartoons from India’s leading publications, drawn by Shankar, Enver Ahmed and R.K. Laxman, among others, lays bare the perverse and thoughtless hostility Ambedkar often contended with. The incisional commentary woven around each cartoon offers a veritable biography of a man historically wronged.