Several community organisations in Johannesburg have called on the Indian cricket team to boycott the tour of South Africa, starting next month in the wake of the Ganesha cartoon controversy, involving cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro.
At a public meeting in Lenasia, the sprawling Indian township south of Johannesburg, hosted by the Tamil Federation of Gauteng (TFG), Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious and community leaders jointly agreed to take several steps to show their protest against the cartoon that appeared in the weekly Sunday Times recently.
The cartoon depicts Hindu deity Ganesha as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) holding a cricket bat in one hand and wads of money in another, with Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Haroon Lorgat lying on an altar at his feet about to be sacrificed by his bosses.
"The TFG decided to call this public meeting to discuss Jonathan Shapiro and the Sunday Times' stance of refusing to apologise for publishing the cartoon of Lord Ganesha," said TFG president Nadas Pillay.
Pillay said the representatives unanimously agreed to take several steps at the meeting.
The first is a boycott of the newspaper for its refusal to apologise for what the meeting said was "the demeaning and blasphemous manner and its reluctance to seek an apology from Jonathan Shapiro, the cartoonist who had insulted all who believe in Lord Ganesha internationally".
The second step is to approach the Indian High Commissioner to get the Indian government and the BCCI to cancel the tour of the Indian team to South Africa.
The meeting also agreed to solicit the support of all religious and cultural groups to protest against the use of religious icons in the marketing of business or commercial ventures.
A task team is to be set up to take these resolutions from the meeting forward.
The cartoon has been described by political analysts as capturing the impasse between CSA and BCCI which led to the South African board agreeing to sideline Lorgat to save part of the tour by India.
CSA had earlier agreed to remove Lorgat from any dealings with the BCCI during the tour and for matters at the ICC where BCCI is involved. Lorgat was at loggerheads with BCCI while he was chief executive at the ICC, and BCCI allegedly cautioned CSA not to appoint him as the CEO.
CSA depends largely on Indian tours to boost its coffers, hence the depiction of sacrifice for money in the cartoon.
The South African Hindu Dharma Sabha (SAHDS), the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and the South African Tamil Federation have all denounced the cartoon and called for an apology from the Sunday Times.
Sabha president Ram Maharaj confirmed that he has asked three institutions to probe the cartoon -- the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; the Human Rights Commission; and the Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa.
Despite such strong views, both cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who uses the name Zapiro, and the Sunday Times have refused to apologise for publishing the cartoon.
"I think most readers would see my depiction of the deity Ganesha as metaphorical and not literal, in that it comments on cricket," Shapiro said in a statement.
"The cartoon criticises the way the BCCI, the world's richest and most powerful cricket board, has bullied CSA into sidelining its CEO, Haroon Lorgat," Shapiro added.
Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt concurred with Shapiro's view in her statement.
"The fact that Ganesha's headgear was labeled 'BCCI Indian Cricket', and he was holding a cricket bat and money, underscores the meaning the cartoonist sought to portray," Oppelt said, adding that she did not believe the use of Hindu iconography in the cartoon amounted to disrespect.
CSA, however, had no comment on the latest move by the community.