India cartoonist Aseem Trivedi's arrest sparks outrage


Protesters outside court chanted: "He is not Aseem but he is a storm, he is the nation's another Gandhi"

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The arrest of an Indian anti-corruption cartoonist on sedition charges has sparked widespread criticism.

Aseem Trivedi appeared in court in Mumbai and was remanded in custody until 24 September for cartoons allegedly mocking the constitution.

Mr Trivedi is demanding the charges be dropped. Many Indians see his arrest as an attack on freedom of expression.

The cartoonist has been participating in the anti-corruption movement led by campaigner Anna Hazare.

"As of now we demand sedition charges are dropped against him," Mr Trivedi's lawyer, Vijay Hiremath, said after Monday's court hearing, AFP news agency reports.

"Obviously they don't have a case so they should have dropped it instead of giving him judicial custody."

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Have Indians become more intolerant? On the face of it, yes”

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Mr Trivedi was arrested on Saturday for a series of cartoons lampooning politicians. He refused to apply for bail at Monday's hearing, and said if telling the truth made him a traitor then he was happy to be described as one.

In one of his cartoons the customary three lions in India's national emblem are replaced with three wolves, their teeth dripping blood, with the message "Long live corruption" written underneath.

Another cartoon depicts the Indian parliament as a giant toilet bowl.

Government officials say that while they are in favour of free speech, there is a thin line between that and insulting national symbols, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi reports.

But Indians have condemned Mr Trivedi's arrest, calling it a "wrongful act". Protesters on social networking sites said it was shameful that corrupt politicians were being let off while those who highlighted corruption were being jailed.

"From the information I have gathered, the cartoonist did nothing illegal and, in fact, arresting him was an illegal act," the chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey Katju, told The Hindu newspaper.

"A wrongful arrest is a serious crime under the Indian Penal Code, and it is those who arrested him who should be arrested."

Mr Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, asked how drawing a cartoon could be considered a crime, and said politicians should learn to accept criticism.

"Either the allegation is true, in which case you deserve it; or it is false, in which case you ignore it. This kind of behaviour is not acceptable in a democracy," he said.

The editor of CNN-IBN news channel, Rajdeep Sardesai, said he found it "amusing but also very dangerous that you can get away with hate speech in this country, but parody and political satire leads to immediate arrest".

A former senior police officer and lawyer YP Singh told the Mint newspaper that from "what I have heard, it seems he [Mr Trivedi] can be booked at the most under a law to prevent insults to national honour and not on serious charges like sedition, which attract much harsher punishment".

If proved, a sedition charge can bring a three-year prison term in India.

Police detained him on Saturday after receiving a complaint from a Mumbai-based lawyer who said his cartoons were anti-India.

The arrest of Mr Trivedi comes after other recent controversy over cartoons in India.

In April, police arrested a professor in the eastern city of Calcutta for allegedly posting cartoons ridiculing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the internet. He was later released.

A month later, a row over a cartoon showing Dalit icon BR Ambedkar in a school textbook disrupted the Indian parliament.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    he'll be hanged, drawn and quartered with an emphasis on the drawn part.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    BJ @273
    "No, it won't"

    In next few seconds, minutes & years, even generations, you might be right, that "the true idea of democracy will not take"

    Editorial Endorsement @267 might though be for educational value or entertainment: how else to explain evasion of the "off-topic" trap!

    I write not to "fight" human nature, but to liberate - not all bad!

    If 'compulsion' rules the day, think ahead

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    To Jack Napier and all non-Indians: It is a fact that corruption in India is an obvious problem. Most Indians tolerate it and many take advantage of it. That's the way of life for many. You have to bribe 50+ % of government employees and politicians to do their work. It starts from birth certificate and ends at death certificate.

  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    India has dreams of becoming a super power.

    Having their own citizens pointing out endemic corruption and massive wide-spread poverty is an embarassment to them.

    They'd rather the world concentrated on their international economic success or their space programme, rather than having their attention drawn to the shortcomings of of Indian society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Let us hope that Aseem Trevidi would be welcome to comment here

    Life's many facets can have close relation & complex deep connections, unsuspected by the casual observer & even by the best of moderators

    Usually, when conversations 'wander', it will be 'to good purpose', the precise 'topic' topic having been aired, its implications bearing examination

    'Philosophy' surely on-topic for India too

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Cartoonist Julian Assange was arrested because he laughed at the hypocrisy of the West, and now this Trivedi is arrested because he laughed and made others laugh at the politicians of the East. East or West, politics is the same everywhere!

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    India needs a revolution. I thought Hazare would bring it. Can Ramdev help him. We need more Hazare-s and Ramdev's.

    India has some good leaders, but they are toothless. They play the politics to stay in power or bring down the opposition when they get into power. Every minister, every parliament member, every assembly member and all those around them are there in politics to make money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    270.All for All
    3 Minutes ago
    BJ @267 and Laurie @264
    In agreement "worryingly"?
    Do not fear for 'democracy': the true idea will eventually 'take'

    No it won't. We have what we have and we know why we have it and we know we can do nothing about it. We therefore make the best out of it and, manifestly, that gives us a very imperfect world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    3 Hours ago
    Can we stop criticising Indians en masse?//

    Looking through the postings, I didn't see any criticising Indians 'en masse'. Though corruption does seem to be widespread in India, not just at the top echelons. Unlike here - here I suspect you would have trouble bribing an ordinary local govt officer, though further up the chain...

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    This does not bode well for the so called largest democracy in the world. Freedom of press is key to demoracy and tolerence. The establishment has become so sensitive that anything against them is considered bad. AUSTIN TX

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    BJ @267 and Laurie @264
    In agreement "worryingly"?
    Do not fear for 'democracy': the true idea will eventually 'take'

    On "the arrest of an Indian anti-corruption cartoonist", perhaps in any democracy (even one much better yet seen), limits will be tested for good or ill in cartoon or blog-comment, and fall to be 'judged' by fellow-mortals, judges & moderators 'doing their best'

    On topic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Arrest those who arrested him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    This really outrageous! Trivedi should be freed.

    You cannot insult national symbol, but how a supreme court of parliament is a symbol. Making fun of politicians is a time old fashion.

    Corruption is the number one problem in India. It is lead by the politicians. It is very obvious. I don't know how long they are going hide this elephant under the rug.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    264.Laurie Knight

    I agree Laurie, there is no 'right' answer - and, maybe worringly democracy is the best we've got.

    You can't fight human nature. You can modify it, you can emasculate it - but you can't ignore against it. And that nature compels us (everyone) to seek power and control - to a lesser or greater extent. Government is the 'civilised' device by which these things are exerted

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    BJ @261
    Our Moderators - in their wisdom - removed my request @226 for a better report of detail on the alleged offence of Aseem Trivedi; but - in their wisdom - have allowed to remain the further detail kindly given by XajaKat @257

    Thanks also to Linense @260, allowed to assist observing 'corruption corrupts'

    Is the wisdom here reflected that of 'the real world'?

    Surely you see now? Yes & No!

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    India is split between Good and Evil.The good is taking its last breath as it wants to live in dignity and freedom,without corruption of the soul.The Evil has always been greedy,immoral,corrupt and It is making this the most undesirable country to live in for intellectuals and patriots.They are looting my country and distracting common man through TV,lies,Religion,power,greed,cricket,superstition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    BJ I'm terribly sorry that I don't have an answer, something better than democracy as it currently is, I guess people have been thinking about that for a few thousand years so I don't feel that guilty that I haven't the answer.

    What I do know is that what we have now is broken. Fundamentally broken.

    What would help is if government were smaller and less powerful, but socialists won't allow that

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    This is a trait that is worldwide and is not exclusive to India. Governments all over the democratic world like their piece of the pie and are not going to give it up easily. Here in the UK we might like to kid ourselves that it is just Africa or Asia. But it has crept into European politics. Look at Russia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Mamnmohan, not as Elected PM (he was not elected anyway) but as Appointed Governer of India, takes daily orders from Washington. This arrest is just one of those orders which the turbantor passed on to Maharastra govt. to silenced Indian people who may be a threat for the APPOINTED/INSTALLED APPRATUS.


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