A cartoon in the Guardian portraying the Indian-origin Home Secretary Priti Patel as a cow with a massive nose ring, in larger than her actual frame, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a bull sitting next to her protecting her, during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQ)- has created major controversy.
The cartoon by Steve Bell, an award-winning British political cartoonist, whose works appear in many publications including The Guardian, on March 4 drew a cartoon of Patel and Johnson with the headline “Steve Bell on Boris Johnson defending Priti Patel at PMQs."
The cartoon was meant to be showing Johnson's reaction to Jeremy Corbyn during one of the recent PMQs, where Corbyn asked the Prime Minister why was Patel appointed as the Home Secretary when she has had a history of “shocking and unacceptable behaviour” and has also been accused of “repeated bullying and harassment” across departments that she has represented, especially after the latest one led to resignation of senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam. Johnson however replied that Patel was doing an outstanding work and he had “every confidence in her.” Rutnam, the Home Office's most senior official, resigned citing a "vicious and orchestrated" crusade against him.
The cartoon has caused outrage in the UK, especially among the Indians and Hindus terming it an expression of religious and racial hate.
Trupti Patel, President of Hindu Forum of Britain, writing a letter to the Guardian said, “On International Women’s Day, we’re reflecting on a week during which we have seen shameful misogyny and racism directed towards one of the foremost women in our political life in the UK, the Home Secretary, Rt Hon. Priti Patel MP. The one-time comprehensive school girl from Watford deserves our respect in rising without the help of privilege or networks to become one of the pre-eminent women in UK political life. Instead, this week she has been on the receiving end of a malicious campaign of smears and denigration. We’ve heard allegations of bullying unsubstantiated by a single solid instance which holds water! Today, new evidence has emerged that indicates Priti Patel was attacked simply because she is a strong and determined woman.
“The Guardian has not only acted as a cheerleader in this shameful campaign, it has gone far beyond misogyny in its coverage. It has crossed the boundary from legitimate reporting into blatant racism.
“The cartoon by Steve Bell published in your paper on Wednesday 4 March has caused huge offence in the Hindu community and beyond. It depicts Priti Patel as a gruesome and distorted cow with a ring through its nose. Calling any woman a cow is clearly misogynistic and offensive: this cartoon should never have been printed for that reason alone. However, the clear reference here is to Priti Patel’s Hindu religion, since the cow is sacred to the Hindu religion. To use such an image in this context represents the extreme of racism. To further show a ring through her nose adds even further unacceptable connotations.
“It is appalling that a racist attack like this has appeared in a national paper. Your cartoonist should never have produced it, but it’s perhaps even more shocking that you and the Guardian team were prepared to print such a hate-filled image This is such a serious instance of racism and has caused such widespread offence, particularly amongst the Hindu community, that it has been construed as 'hate crime among many British Hindus' which we believe should be investigated by the police.
“Before taking the step of bringing it to their attention, we wanted to give you an opportunity to explain why you thought it was an acceptable action to published this hate-filled image in your paper. We wish to complain in the strongest terms.”
British Tamil Conservatives tweeted saying, “Its anti-Hindu. It portrays the Home Secretary, of Hindu origin as a cow. A sacred symbol for Hindus. It's racist and misogynist. It’s plainly unacceptable! It may constitute a hate crime.”
US Presidential candidate Tulisi Gabbard tweeted saying “Unfortunately, Hinduphobia is very real. I've experienced it directly in each of my campaigns for Congress & in this presidential race. Here's just one example of what Hindus face every day in our country. Sadly, our political leaders & media not only tolerate it, but foment it.”