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By Dr. Shirin Abbas, TIO: Even as India continued its second day under lockdown, the national newspaper The Hindu drew umbrage over a cartoon in its cartoon today from Muslim readers for depicting the COVID-19 virus in a salwar terrorizing the world with the pandemic.
As soon as readers logged in to the paper’s online edition this morning, they were scandalized by the daily cartoons in the Thursday edition which showed the Coronavirus dressed in a salwar kameez and toting a machine gun, threatening a cowering Globe depicting the COVID-19 threat on the world.
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Screenshots of the cartoon were soon going viral on social media with angry tweets and FB posts decrying the Islamophobic depiction. The anger of the readers finally forced the paper to take down the cartoon and replace the same, now seen as stick figures with the following regret issued by the Editor.
Among those who have reposted The Hindu cartoon of this morning and expressed shock/ reposted their corrected version was noted author Rana Safvi, who expressed regret at the choice of attire depicted in the cartoon. She then reposted the Editor’s regret along with the altered cartoon.
“Some readers have objected to the cartoon published on March 26, 2020, as Islamophobic. Any links to Muslims in the attire of the virus was completely unintentional. The point of the cartoon was to show the world being taken hostage by the virus. However, we agree that the virus should have been shown as just a blob or a stick figure and we express our regret for the hurt or unhappiness caused. Accordingly, we are taking down the cartoon online and replacing it with one that has a neutral representation of the attire. Editor”
However, the one question that is being voiced by netizens is how the cartoon made its place in the pages of the edition and how its memory will be erased from public memory what with the cartoon now already out in the printed editions of the day.
Says one irate reader, “I appreciate the corrective action taken by the newspaper. Had they also issued a public apology or even expressed regret I would have deleted my previous post or not shared the original cartoon here (On Facebook). But since they didn’t, I will let the original cartoon remain here in the public domain. More so because it exposes the latent Islamophobia of the newspaper. It’s a reminder. Forgive, but don’t forget. Sab yaad rakha jayega.” (All will be remembered, not forgotten)
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However, there have been Muslim readers who have come out in support of the newspaper. Ike Abdul Hameed who posted: “I have been reading The Hindu for nearly 50years now, that is ever since I started reading English newspapers and I can vouch that the Hindu can never be accused of any communal biases or Islamophobia. They are the most independent newspapers except bit communist leaning for a short period. Most probably the Pathan like the dress is inadvertent and the author did not notice. We need to appreciate its quick removal.”
Another reader, Farhat Azam, posted, I was totally shocked. It’s our favorite newspaper as it was always unbiased and highly secular.”
Another reader from the majority community, Rahul Ghosh, added, “The Hindu, as far as I know, was very secular and Left/liberal/ communist in its outlook. This should not have been passed in the first instant. Is it perhaps and absurdity that a South Indian editor didn’t understand the dress code?
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Compiled by Arisha R.