The Ambedkar Cartoons, 1932–1956
with a Foreword by Suraj Yengde
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.
Unnamati Syama Sundar grew up in Vijayawada on a diet of Calvin and Hobbes, Dennis the Menace, Chacha Chaudhary and Amar Chitra Katha. He is doing his doctoral research at Jawaharlal Nehru University on the art featured in Chandamama, the popular Telugu children’s magazine founded in 1947. Syama Sundar is well-known for his Ambedkarite cartoons in the non-savarna social media world. His work is featured regularly on the website roundtableindia.co.in.
‘These cartoons are as relevant today as they were seventy years ago’—Vijeta Kumar
‘No Laughing Matter unveils the dirty savarna gaze and gives us much to learn’—Varun Grover
‘Syama Sundar uncovers upper-caste majoritarianism disguised as artistic freedom’—Rajyashri Goody
‘A scathing and unsparing reappraisal of Indian political cartooning’—Suraj Yengde, in his Foreword