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‘Racist’ cartoon in Australian daily shows Indians eating solar panels

Sydney: A cartoon depicting Indians eating solar panels published in an Australian daily on Monday has attracted strong criticism owing to its “racist” overtone, a media report said.

The cartoon by Bill Leak was published in the Australian, depicting starving Indians chopping up and eating solar panels sent to the developing nation in an attempt to curb carbon emissions, the Independent reported.

“This cartoon is unequivocally racist and draws on very base stereotypes of the third world, underdeveloped people who don’t know what to do with technology,” the report quoted Amanda Wise, an associate professor of sociology at Macquarie University, as saying.

“India is the technology centre of the world right now and has some of the most high-tech industries on the planet in that part of the world. The underlying message is that people in developing countries don’t need all these technologies to do with climate change — they need food.”

“But actually it is people living in poverty that will suffer the most through food security, sea level rises, dropping of the water table.”

Editor Clive Mathieson of the Rupert Murdoch-run News Corp daily confirmed he edited Monday’s paper but declined to comment on the shocking cartoon.

“I don’t know too many places in the world where you would get away with that, to be honest. In Britain and the US, there would be an incredible outcry. It is appalling,” Wise said.

“This is really old imagery he has drawn on. Thin, starving people wearing turbans, who are so starving they are going to chop up solar panels. That is 1950s symbolism. We have moved on. The rest of the world has moved on,” she said.

“In Australia, people from India are the second largest migrant group and they are coming here on skilled visas.”

Leak’s cartoon was also widely condemned on Twitter.

“How backward is Aust #climate politics? Here, the absurd racist rubbish published by Murdoch’s national newspaper,” tweeted David Pope.

“Hey Bill Leak, some facts on India’s renewable energy sector. They’re a lot smarter than your cartoons are funny,” tweeted another user who goes by the name Mr Denmore.

Lisa Singh tweeted: “Incredibly disappointed by Bill Leak’s cartoon today. Shows complete ignorance of India and insults every Indian.”

Yin Paradies, a professor at Deakin University whose research includes the economic effects of racism, said the cartoon’s message was clearly racist.

“The message… is that India is too stupid to handle renewable energy and should stick to coal,” Paradies told the Guardian Australia.

“Suggesting that ‘developing nations are stupid’ is racist given that such nations are invariably associated with specific racial groups (i.e. non-whites).”

India took one of the hardest public lines at the climate change talks in Paris, and in the lead-up to them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly argued that it would be “morally wrong” to let rich countries off the hook for their historical emissions.

The country has also stood by its decision to use massive quantities of highly polluting coal to power growth over coming decades, all while increasing the proportion of renewable energy.

(Inputs from IANS)

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