The Story of Karnika Kahen

Karnika Kahen, the cartoon character was born when I was feeling very angry after reading the news about Godman Asaram Bapu, a high-profile guru who remarked that the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim, Nirbhaya,1 was equally guilty with those who raped, tortured, and killed her. In 2013, Asaram was accused of sexual assault against a 16-year old girl himself. He raped her on the pretext of exorcising her from evil spirits. Asaram stated that the unfortunate rape victim of Delhi bus should have called those monsters “Bhaiyaa” (brother) who raped her or she should have recited the “guru-mantra” to save herself from that disaster.

karnikaTo express my anger, I made a series of cartoons on Asaram and published it on my Facebook Karnika Kahen and Twitter account.

ek_anek_Karnika_EnglishWithin one week India Today and Aaj Tak picked up my cartoons and published a story where I was interviewed. The editor didn’t publish the cartoons with my original name and used the name of character in the article, maybe because she already saw what was coming next.

Asaram’s followers were already after me when I started publishing cartoons related to him on Facebook but once the cartoons got published in India Today and Aaj Tak, they started coming in hordes and started abusing me severely. I had not heard or read such language before in my life. They even started making derogatory cartoons about me.

anti-karnikaSome of them even threatened to kill me. They told that they would give me the same treatment which Nirbhaya had faced. They hacked my Facebook and email accounts and got some of my photographs from there, and they started distributing those. I was very scared. For months I didn’t come out of my home. I was so afraid that I was not able to sleep properly. But I kept making cartoons about Asaram until his blind followers got tired and stopped threatening me. I filed a complaint in Mumbai Cyber Crime Cell and local police station. I received lots of support from people in all over the country and from other cartoonists. It helped me to continue my fight against these blind followers.2

The story of Asaram was about at its end, but it had given me a chance to fulfill my dream which I had almost forgotten in the topsy-turvy of life. The dream to become a cartoonist!

I had started my career simultaneously with my studies (BFA and MFA from Lucknow College of Arts) and I had started working on a comic strip for children for newspaper Swatantra Bharat. But I always had this dream to become a cartoonist. I have not seen a single female cartoonist in India, and most of the cartoon characters represent the “Aam Aadmi.” I have never seen a “Aam Ladki” (common girl) or “Aam Aurat” (common woman) in the world of Indian cartoons. Maybe I was discouraged, or maybe I was not determined enough, or maybe I had developed an interest in learning new techniques of creating arts because I had almost forgot all about my childhood dream. I went to Delhi to learn Animation, and I also worked as graphic designer in various media houses.

After marriage, I came to Mumbai. I worked for Tinkle magazine under Mr. Anant Pai. I also worked for Dimdima, a magazine published by Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. I worked on a comic “Tenali Raman” with Mr. Luis Fernandez.
For the last many years, I have been working on animated movies under the banner

My childhood dream was almost lost in all this, but my wrath against Asaram and other similar incidents became a reason for the birth of “Karnika Kahen” and I felt as though my dream had gotten new life and new wings.

And now, I want to fly high in sky in the world of cartoons. I have also tried to come up with some animated cartoons.

  1. Indian laws forbid the publishing of a rape victim’s name, Nirbhaya means “fearless” in Hindi; it is the name used by the media. []
  2. See कार्टून से बौखलाये आसाराम के भक्‍त, बदतमीजी पर उतरे and Asaram supporters are spreading terror on social networking websites. []
  3. See also Youtube. []
Kanika Mishra is a cartoonist from Mumbai, India. Read other articles by Kanika, or visit Kanika's website.