Much smaller Nepal gets back at India on border row using the power of satire
Kunda Dixit May 26, 2020
Afestering row between India and Nepal over a section of their Himalayan border has seen an eruption of cartoons in the Nepali media that poke fun at India’s claim to the territory but also ridicule their own rulers in Kathmandu.
The latest episode in the dispute began in November when India for the first time included the Lipu Lekh region in its official map, and followed it up this month by inaugurating a road to the Chinese border through a valley that Nepal considers its territory. Nepal retaliated by publishing its own map, that extended the country’s boundary beyond Lipu Lekh to also include Limpiyadhura on the border tri-junction with China.
Politics and history of Kalapani claim, Prabhakar Sharma
Lines on map, Editorial
The war of the maps has now spread to cybersphere as some hackers on both sides exploit vulnerabilities on the websites of official agencies in each other’s countries. Social media posts continue to carry sharply divided opinion on the issue in India and Nepal, and have drowned out moderate views calling for de-escalation.
The mainstream media in India and Nepal have staunchly defended their own governments, although the Nepali press has also been unforgiving about lapses by Nepal’s rulers over the past 150 years in raising the issue with Britain, and later India.
But it is Nepal’s cartoonists who are having a field day exposing what they consider India’s bullying, the statement by India’s Army Chief insinuating that China was egging Nepal to rake up the issue, and they have also interpreted China’s silence as complicity.
Nepal needs intelligent intelligence, Dipak Gurung
Rabindra Manandhar 14 May
Nepal Prime Minister Oli at Lipu Lekh:
Indian soldier: Run! He will kill us reciting poems.
Abin 11 May Kantipur
Sign: Lipu Lekh
Prime Minister Oli issuing statements.
Basu Kshitiz 18 May Annapurna Post
Rabindra Manandhar 14 May Nepal
Nepal Army HQ
Files: Medical imports, Business
Newspaper headline: Indian encroachment in Nepali territory
Rabin Sayami 14 May Nagarik
Reporter: It has been a while since India started making the road in Lipu Lekh
PM: I didn’t know, I was in hospital
Reporter: But they launched the road with much fanfare?
PM: I was in hospital, no one told me anything
Reporter: Was China’s involved?
PM: I don’t that either, I was in hospital.
Reporter: What would you have done if you knew?
PM: Powerful statement would have been released, from the hospital.
“A sketch speaks a thousand words, and images leave a more lasting imprint in people’s minds than text,” explains Rajesh KC, who makes cartoons under the nom de plume Phalano in the portal, barakhari.com. “The Kalapani issue is made for satire because Nepal is the underdog and the only way it can hit back is by making fun of the stronger side.”
Indeed, most Nepali cartoonists have joined this David vs Goliath fight with sketches that deride Prime Minister Modi, Indian Army Chief Navarane, and Indian television talk shows. However, in contrast to Indian mainstream media during this dispute, Nepal’s cartoonists have reserved their sharpest barbs for their own leaders.
“This gives Nepal’s media much more credibility, it shows that we are free enough to criticise our own rulers at a sensitive time like this,” says Rabin Sayami, whose cartoons in Nagarik daily relentlessly lampoon Prime Minister Oli.
Sayami says that the message in his cartoons is that politicians on both sides are using the border row for political benefit, and to distract attention from the larger challenge of addressing economic concerns of their people during the COVID-19 lockdown. “And let’s hope the Indian media also gets the message,” he adds.
Rabi Mishra 22 May Naya Patrika Indian Mass Media:
Basu Kshitij 13 May Annapurna Post: Modi to media: Repeat after me, parrot.
Both KC and Sayami consider themselves journalists, it is just that instead of writing or broadcasting, they are using the medium of editorial cartoons to dissect events of the day. The images they create provide a powerful tool to get the message across quicker and more effectively than a long text-based analysis.
“An editorial cartoonist needs to incorporate three components: art, journalism and humour,” explains KC, who received a severe reprimand in 2008 from the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu for lampooning Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a Kantipur cartoon about another border dispute with India over the Susta corridor.
It is because cartoons are so effective in exposing hypocrisy, telling truth to power, and making people laugh, that those who are the butt of jokes sometimes cannot take it.
Nepali Times cartoonist Diwakar Chhetri often depicts both India and China as bullying tiny Nepal. He says: “Cartoons are actions, and the pictures are more powerful than words because they use satire, irony, metaphors to add flavour to the unvarnished truth. It is a cartoon’s bold honesty that makes it such a powerful medium.”