By Shaifali Agrawal:
On the 11th of September 2012, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was in jail in Mumbai on sedition charges because of an “offensive” cartoons he made, expressing his views regarding India entrapped in corruption, met activist Arvind Kejriwal and other members of the India Against Corruption movement. Mr Kejriwal warned that if charges of sedition are not dropped against Mr Trivedi, activists will begin a demonstration outside the Arthur Road jail starting Saturday.
Aseem Trivedi’s earlier cartoons, one titled “Gang Rape of Mother India”, another showing Kasab urinating on the Indian constitution, and yet another with the parliament building shaped as a huge toilet bowl, have spread unrest among government officers, but in the one, he supposedly crossed the line, by replacing the three lions in the national emblem, Asoka Chakra by three wolves with a sign of danger, depicting the ravenous corruption. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni said that there is a thin line between freedom of speech and what can be termed as offensive especially against national symbols. By this, does she mean that the government levied sedition charges against Trivedi because he unpleasantly depicted one of the national symbols? Because he made wrong use of his right to freedom of speech and expression? Is she sure it is not because he cruelly showed the truth about corruption in our country?
Activists say that Indian authorities have become increasingly intolerant of criticism. Everybody has been condemning corruption in different ways for a very a long time. Finally a person represented the same views in a stronger and effective way and it caught the attention of entire India. Is this what the government did not like? Because as the government says he insulted the national emblem? My question is what use is the good portrayal of our country’s identity, when each Indian knows how embroiled in corruption this country is? They say, don’t wash your dirty laundry in public, but it is not that the Coal scam, the IPL scam, the Satyam scam, the Commonwealth Games scam, the 2G Spectrum scam are a discreet thing to a non-Indian. The arrest had sparked widespread debate internationally about the freedom of expression in India.
Kejriwal said that MPs who insult the national emblem by resorting to corrupt practices should be booked for sedition and not someone who lampoons corruption and a corrupt government. He said: “‘Jo Koile Ki Chori Kare, woh Desh Bhakt, aur Jo Bhastrachar ke Khilaf Cartoon banaye, woh deshdrohi.‘
In my opinion, the right-hand aide of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal’s stand on the arrest of the cartoonist is what the country needs. Though Trivedi has walked out of prison as of now, the sedition charges should be dropped or Kejriwal has threatened to launch a stir by the end of the week. This obviously is not the first or the last fight against corruption, but hopefully the government would, in future, do whatever it can to protect the image of the country and its symbols (because the offence to the national emblem is what hurt their sentiments, supposedly) by being honest in its governance of the country.