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India: Renowned cartoonist arrested and charged with sedition

17 September 2012

Aseem Trivedi, a renowned Indian political cartoonist, best known for launching the campaign Cartoons Against Corruption, and founding member of Save Your Voice — a movement against internet censorship in India — was arrested on 9 September 2012 and charged with sedition.

Although the Bombay High Court has since granted him bail, Trivedi is refusing to be freed till the sedition charges against him are dropped.

In comments after his release, televised from outside the jailhouse, the satirist vowed to continue his campaign against the country’s colonial-era law on sedition:

“This fight will continue until 124A is repealed,” he said, holding a microphone. He was referring to section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which was introduced by the British colonial government in 1860. It was the same law the British Raj used to imprison Mahatma Gandhi.

The law prohibits “words either spoken or written, or by signs or visible representation” that attempts to cause “hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection,” toward the government.

Trivedi then thanked his supporters for rallying around him after his arrest triggered a debate over free speech in the world’s largest democracy.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, has defended the laws and the court’s decision.
Awarded for his courage
In May 2012, the Virginia-based Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) announced that it will give Aseem Trivedi the group’s annual ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’.

CRNI said the Indian cartoonist was mobilizing “his fellow citizens against India’s pervasive political corruption.” The human-rights group cited Trivedi’s launch of two pages on Facebook: Cartoonists Against Corruption and Save Your Voice: A Movement Against Web Censorship.

The CRNI award ceremony for Ferzat and Trivedi was scheduled for 15 September 15 at D.C.’s George Washington University during the convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.
Attention world-wide
Ben Doherty noted in the Sydney Morning Herald that the court case has brought the cartoonist more attention world-wide than his drawings ever could. Ben Doherty wrote:

“Trivedi has drawn the national Parliament as a giant toilet, suggested politicians’ corruption was akin to drinking the blood of the people, and depicted the gang rape of ‘mother India’ by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. But it is his reinterpretation of India’s Ashok Chakra national emblem, changing the three lions atop a plinth to three salivating wolves, and altering the motto from ‘Only truth triumphs’ to ‘Only corruption triumphs’, that has attracted most controversy.

Acting on a complaint from a lawyer, police alleged his cartoons were ‘ugly and obscene’.
Crippling corruption scandal
The Indian government is embroiled in yet another crippling corruption scandal in which coal-mining licences were corruptly allocated. It cost the government 33 billion US dollars. Scams of breathtaking size are almost routine under this government. Some see Trivedi’s arrest as the latest example of growing intolerance to criticism on the part of Indian authorities.”

In May 2012, six historical political cartoons were censored from a government school textbook, including one of first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, whipping B.R. Ambedkar, author of India’s constitution, as Ambedkar sat on a snail, urging him to hurry up.

“By suppressing art, you cannot suppress corruption,” Trivedi said in January in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s India RealTime.
Website banned – and reopened
Trivedi’s website — www.cartoonistagainstcorruption.com — was banned by Mumbai police, but a backup-site has since been opened on cartoonsagainstcorruption.blogspot.dk.

“Mumbai police banned the website without any prior notice and cases of ‘treason’ were also filed. The website was banned without a judicial order and I haven’t received an explanation about the crime committed,” Trivedi told the Indian newspaper Daily News Analysis, DNA, in March 2012.
Wikipedia – the open encyclopedia:
wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartoons_Against_Corruption

Facebook page of Cartoons Against Corruption:
facebook.com/cartoonsagainstcorruption

Sydney Morning Herald – 11 September 2012:
Cartoonist jailed for corruption drawings
Washington Post – 12 May 2012:
Profiles in cartooning courage: How artists in Syria, Iran and India wield their free-speech pens against powerful forces

 

 

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