The Netaji

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Artist: Girik Jain

While Internet shutdowns have become a very normal thing in India, it largely does not impact many people living in the major cities- like me. Because it was not happening to us, it did not bother me as well… until it happened to me during a protest in New Delhi. Then I started to speaking to people in certain parts of the country who regularly experience shutdowns and they shared problems they had faced. It was like a reality check to the bubble I was living in. Satire has been my favored mode of communication as it helps create impact and also has a touch of humor to it. It lets you address the problem, but get people smiling and thinking. I believe it helps impact more than a straight-forward statement, as people may be used to hearing about internet shutdowns and perhaps even immune, as I was, because the issue is distant. Humor makes us think about what is ironic and absurd about ordering internet shutdowns, and laughter brings people into activism with a positive feeling- something that feels cool and subversive.

‘Netaji’ is a term in Hindi which means Neta(politician)+Ji(adverb for respect), over the years Netaji has become a term not just for politicians but also a street slang. The character Netaji that we designed is the typical Indian Politician. He is a middle aged man, who appears to be kind but only cares about himself, with his belly full and his wallet perhaps stuffed with public funds. This illustrated campaign focuses on this character and how he disrupts the lives of his constituents without care or regard and to show how lazy, ineffective and unjust it is to shutdown the internet for some while extolling the value of the internet for others. 

The first image is modeled off the many campaign posters that are posted all over cities during election times. In this poster, the party slogan in Hindi is ‘NO INTERNET & ‘REMOVE INFORMATION POLICY’. The slogan reads ‘Remove Internet, Delete Awareness’ and rhymes in Hindi as most political party slogans rhyme. 

This cartoon is based on an old Indian school poster called the ‘bad habits chart’ that was used to illustrate good and bad habits for children. This poster shows the bad habits not of children but of politicians and citizens

The last two images are comics featuring the Netaji and one of his constituents. In the first, the constituent is telling the Netaji he is worried about the impact of artificial intelligence, but the Netaji replies that it won’t impact him because he’s shut the internet where he lives. The second comic is meant to highlight the ironies inherent in shutting off the internet to prevent cheating on exams (a common justification), as the constituent can no longer access educational materials online and contribute to the digital economy.

Girik TJ, Visual artist based out of India. 

@girikgirikgirik on instagram

I have tried writing my artist Bio multiple times, failing always. This is another attempt and this time I will be as honest as possible. I don’t like my art to fall in a genre, a movement, a timeline or a singular philosophy or anything for that matter, and with all honesty I cannot describe it in words, rather I wouldn’t. As I have answered in the past when asked to explain my art and I say the same to you,” explaining my paintings in words is an insult to them.” Instead let me talk a bit about myself, I grew up in a small town in India and as long as I have memory, I have just been doing this, Painting. And it has always been free flowing, sure I went to an art school, of course I went to art school, this is the only thing i know how to do. And I tried other forms of art also, I tried being a lyricist ,a musician and a sculptor(still keen on trying this). It just does not work. Somehow I am just meant for this one thing, and I don’t know how else to put it. It is a calling, it is a gift, no matter how cliche it sounds, thats how my brain works, I remember things in visuals, I solve simple mathematics in my brain in visuals. I Imagine in paintings, when I observe things automatically I start drawing them in my head. And I love every part of it. I am just a simple painter who wants to paint, and I don’t care if I don’t become rich, if i don’t become successful or I have an audience, I would still paint, and paint till I have painted everything thats inside me and I will die trying this. This is one and the only thing that I understand and that I do.