Indian ministers rebuke Der Spiegel for ‘racist’ cartoon mocking population size
German magazine accused of putting down India with caricature depicting population overtaking China.
A cartoon in the German magazine Der Spiegel poking fun at India as it becomes more populous than China has been castigated as “racist” by Indian ministers.
According to The Guardian, The cartoon shows a rickety old Indian train packed with people and swarms of passengers atop it. On a parallel track, a sleek Chinese bullet train is seen with just two drivers, looking surprised at the sight of the Indian train.
According to United Nations projections published on Monday, India has a population of 1,425,775,850, surpassing China for the first time.
Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, tweeted: “Hi Germany, this is outrageously racist. Der Spiegel caricaturing India in this manner has no resemblance to reality. Purpose is to show India down and suck up to China.”
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the minister for electronics and information technology, also reacted angrily, tweeting: “Dear Cartoonist at @derspiegel… Notwithstanding your attempt at mocking India … it’s not smart to bet against India under PM @narendramodi ji…. In a few years India’s economy will be bigger than Germany’s.”
Some Indians pointed out that it was true that during busy festivals when millions of Indians rush to go home, some trains do look like the one in the cartoon.
Western criticism has always rankled Indian governments but under Narendra Modi, the resentment is much sharper.
Any negative coverage, such as the recent BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, which examined the prime minister’s role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, is routinely dismissed as a malicious conspiracy to defame Modi and, by association, India.
In 2021, Modi himself made the same claim during an election rally in Assam, complaining that Indian tea and yoga were being maligned by foreigners.
“These days there are conspiracies against the nation. They are trying to malign the image of Indian tea worldwide. Some documents have revealed that such conspiracy is being hatched by forces sitting in a foreign land,” he said.
Last week, Baijayant Panda, an MP and spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, wrote a column in the Hindustan Times accusing the western media of outright prejudice against India.
Panda accused the media of ignoring India’s progress and, without naming it, singled out the New York Times for what he called its bias and routine India-bashing. He added: “What is peculiar is the abandonment of objectivity in the single-minded pursuit of a predetermined narrative.”
In 2014, the New York Times published a cartoon mocking India’s feat in putting a robotic probe into orbit around Mars. It showed an Indian farmer with a cow knocking at the door of a room marked Elite Space Club. After protests, the newspaper published an apology.