‘Racist’ Der Spiegel cartoon on India’s population raises hackles: ‘Elite, colonial mindset’

Several Indians criticise ‘Der Spiegel’ for publishing cartoon ‘peddling old stereotypes’

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 26 April 2023 13:46 BST
<p>Cartoon in German ‘Der Spiegel’ riles up Indians who dub it ‘racist’</p>

Cartoon in German ‘Der Spiegel’ riles up Indians who dub it ‘racist’

A cartoon published in the German newspaper Der Spiegel about India overtaking China as the world’s most populous country has angered Indians who have dubbed it “racist”.

Earlier this month, the UN had estimated that India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous country by the middle of the year.

On Monday, the multilateral agency said India’s population will eclipse an ageing China by the end of this month.

Der Spiegel’s cartoon depicts an overcrowded Indian Railways train with passengers hanging on from the sides and atop it, overtaking a sleek Chinese train running on a parallel track. Trains across India are usually overcrowded as they are a cheap mode of transport available for millions who wish to transit throughout the country.

Many Indians criticised the outlet and claimed it reeked of racism and was a “crass” attempt at “peddling old stereotypes” about the country.

“Notwithstanding your attempt at mocking India, it’s not smart to bet against India under PM [Narendra Modi]. In a few years, India’s economy will be bigger than Germany’s,” tweeted federal minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser with the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, lashed out at the German outlet and claimed the purpose [of the cartoon] was to show “India down and suck up to China”.

“[Germany] this is outrageously racist. [Der Spiegel] caricaturing India in this manner has no resemblance to reality,” he tweeted.

He added that “this is as bad if not worse than the racist cartoon in [New York Times] lampooning India’s successful Mars mission”.

The reference was to a 2014 cartoon that The New York Times published after India launched its Mars Mission. Indians claimed the cartoon mocked India. The paper had later issued an apology after reader complaints.

“A [cartoon] by German magazine [Der Spiegel] about [India’s] population overtaking [China’s] with typical elite, superior & colonial mindset depicting India as back-ward & less-evolved nation, is highly condemnable. West is jealous of India’s growth & prosperity,” wrote one observer.

“In German, the name of the influential magazine Der Spiegel means The Mirror. But going by this derogatory, racist cartoon, it should change its name to Rassistischer Troll [racist troll],” tweeted Baijayant Jay Panda, national vice president of the ruling, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Cartoon by German Magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ is in bad taste,” said Vijayasai Reddy V, a member of parliament.

“The Western World prefers to depict India as poor and struggling... Cannot wait for the next few years when India will overtake Germany as the 4th biggest GDP.”

“The German cartoon on India’s population is a crass & racist attempt at peddling old stereotypes, to showcase India as some exotic basket case. It reflects a denial – the West cannot accept India’s growth story. So NYT shows a man with a cow & Der Spiegel has an overcrowded train,” weighed in another user.

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