Australian Cartoon Depicting Indians As Starving And Eating Solar Panels Spark Outrage

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4:29 pm 15 Dec, 2015

A cartoon in a leading Australian newspaper ‘The Australian’ was condemned as ‘racist’ after it depicted starving Indians chopping up and eating solar panels sent to the developing nation.

The cartoon, which was captioned ‘Aid A La Mode’, or ‘Fashionable Aid,’ has sparked widespread outrage in India and abroad.

The cartoon was drawn by a veteran cartoonist Bill Leak, and was in response to the recently signed climate deal in Paris.

After days of tough negotiations, the climate deal was finalized in Paris, seeking to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and committing $100 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries.

Negotiating hard on behalf of developing nations, India had demanded that developed countries accept more responsibility and provide financial support to developing countries so that they could make a switch to green technology.

According to the Gaurdian, the editor of the Australian, Clive Mathieson, confirmed he edited Monday’s paper but declined to give a response to the backlash.


Soon after the cartoon was published, the daily started getting criticism from all across the planet, with many calling it shocking and unacceptable.

Talking about the post, Amanda Wise, an associate professor of sociology at Macquarie University said:

“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.”

She also added that no other developed country in the world, be it the US, the UK or Canada would have accepted this. She said:

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

The cartoon also provoked anger in India with journalist Shoma Chaudhury even stating that it “demonstrated ignorance of both the journalist, cartoonist and publication.”

She also said that India has not only “voluntarily started adopting renewables like solar energy in hundreds of villages.” She added that “the bewildered farmers in Leak’s cartoon could probably teach him a thing or two about solar panels, while treating him to the indisputable pleasures of mango chutney.”

Leak is a veteran cartoonist in Australia, he joined The Australian back in 1994 and in recent past he has been accused of becoming conservative in his views.

Many have even blamed Leak’s serious head injury, that he suffered after an accident few years back for his change in behaviour.

While that would have been an easy way out, Leak in 2012 had addressed this criticism head-on, and said:

” I have to accept a painful reality: I have become a rabid right winger and a Murdoch toady. It seems widely accepted that this terrible turn of events is attributable to the fact that I recently had an accident, after which I had to undergo brain surgery. Freedom of speech is the freedom to offend, and that means the freedom to offend anyone. Neither cartoonists nor journalists should be required to exempt certain groups within society from this general rule when expressing their views.”

While Leak declined to comment on the criticism of Monday’s cartoon, the news had caught fire, with many coming taking to Twitter to criticize the cartoon. Here are some tweets:

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