Picture of the Month

In this striking poster, Nirjhar Som draws attention to the fate of the poor farmer in an increasingly neo-liberal India against the backdrop of the tragic suicide of the 43-year old Rajasthani Gajendra Singh Kalyanwat in the nation’s capital on April 22, 2015. Still holding on to his sickle and a sheaf of grain, the corpse of the dhoti-clad Indian Farmer hangs from the end of a tree, which is artfully shaped to produce a giant question mark. As strikingly, the tree and its tragic “fruit” is silhouetted against a map of India to represent the nation that has apparently abandoned men like Gajendra Singh and millions of others like him.

(Image sourced from https://www.facebook.com/nirjhar.som)
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Nirjhar’s image resonates with another similar image—the work of artist Gaurishankar that was published in the Allahabad periodical Abhyudaya in Novmber 1931—that we reproduce here. Gaurishankar’s image, like Nirjhar’s, shows a map of India whose space is filled up by the sparsely-clad body of the Indian Farmer (bharatiya kisaan), “crucified” by the burden of the land tax (lagaan). He is attacked by plague (mahaamari), drought (anaavrshti), deluge (ativrishti), poverty (daridrata), and influenza. At the bottom of the cross is the “orphaned family” of the farmer.
Eighty four years separate the two images, and many things have surely changed in the India of 1931 and the India of 2015: after all, in 1931, India was still a British colony, but today it is proud to declare itself an emergent global power.
But has life really changed for the Indian Farmer?

Text by Sumathi Ramaswamy

We post both images to start a conversation on this important issue. Please write to us.


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