Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi Arrested: A Mockery Of Democracy

About cartoonist Aseem Trivedi's arrest on charges of sedition and the growing online support to release him on the basis of Freedom of Speech and Expression as his basic right

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The Indian government is systematically clamping down the voices that formed the India Against Corruption movement. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who had started a campaign against corruption through his website ‘www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com’ was arrested yesterday by the Mumbai Police’s cyber wing on charges of sedition and insulting the national emblems in his cartoons.

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On the first day of Anna’s fast during the ‘India against corruption’ movement last year, his website was banned following a private complaint. There was no legal notice, no court order, no advance warning and not even a letter/email requesting to remove the objectionable content. However, he continued with his campaign through the blog ‘www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.blogspot.in’. In addition, he founded ‘Save your voice’, a campaign committed to raising a united voice to save our freedom of expression, along with journalist Alok Dixit.

No doubt the High and Mighty forces had an eye on him. In January, a case of sedition was filed against him at the Beed district court. Last month, the court had issued a non-bailable warrant against the cartoonist accusing him of putting ‘ugly and obscene content’ on his website. He has been charged under 124a sedition, 66a of IT Act and National Emblem act.

Ever since, the Twitter world has been abuzz with outrage in the form of #AseemTrivedi trending at the top. Majority of the tweets are condemning this act while a few seem to be offended with his cartoons.

Mahesh Murthy, a man who builds brands and a social media influencer, has changed his DP to reflect one of the ‘alleged’ cartoon and has urged others to do the same.

As can be seen, Aseem’s version has ‘Bhrashtameva Jayate’ meaning ‘Corruption Alone Triumphs’ instead of the original ‘Satyameva Jayate’ meaning ‘Truth alone Triumphs’ in his version of the National Emblem.

It is evident to any sane person that Aseem was pointing to the rampant corruption in our system and not insulting anybody. “Just gone thro’ Aseem Trivedi’s cartoons. They r hard hitting, but I find nothing wrong in that. His imprisonment is mockery of democracy”, tweeted Nikhil Wagle, Editor of IBN Lokmat.

While many blogger activists have voiced their concerns, a public petition by Change.org, addressed to R R Patil, Home Minister of Maharashtra demands to release him immediately on the grounds of ‘Right to freedom of speech and expression’ as granted by the Indian Constitution. The online petition has so far collected 1710 signatures.

Interestingly, the arrest has come at a time when he was scheduled to visit Syria to collect the ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’ on the 12th of September!

In a country where we have seen an uninterrupted barrage by the Indian government to censor free speech, this does not come as a surprise. In April, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal got Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a Kolkata professor arrested for forwarding a cartoon spoof on her. He had been charged with eve-teasing (Section 509 of the IPC), defamation (Section 500 of the IPC), humiliating a woman (Section 114 of the IPC) and causing offence using a computer (Section 66 A (b) of the IT Act). Twitter saw an uproar in the form of #arrestmenow where lakhs joined to condemn the arrest, but justice is still delayed.

Aseem’s Save Your Voice, had protested this by making cartoons on the burning issues of West Bengal at the India Gate. Now its our turn to protest against his arrest.