Pockets of disgruntled citizens plan series of demonstrations after the cartoonist, who has been charged with sedition, was sent to police custody till September 16
Yogesh Sadhwani and Pooja Naik [email protected]
The arrest of 25-year-old cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on charges of sedition is likely to spark a wave of protests, with organisers hoping the outpouring of anger will be similar to the large-scale demonstrations seen when Anna Hazare first launched his campaign for the Jan Lokpal bill 18 months ago.
Mumbai-based Trivedi was arrested by the BKC Police Station on Saturday evening following complaints about a series of anti-corruption cartoons that he had displayed at Anna Hazare’s rally a the MMRDA grounds in December. These cartoons were judged to have, among other things, insulted the constitution and several complaints were registered with the BKC cops.
On Sunday, a day after his arrest, the Bandra court remanded him to police custody till September 16. He refused to hire a lawyer and, according to eye-witnesses, did not defend himself.
As news of his arrest spread, the city’s blow-hot-blow-cold response to the battle against corruption seemed to get second wind, fuelled as it was by a restriction on a cartoonist’s freedom of expression.
Several groups of people Mumbai Mirror spoke to, including but not restricted to India Against Corruption which backed Hazare’s campaign, had hit the drawing board to plan a series of protests against Trivedi’s arrest.
IAC volunteers have already sent the offending cartoons to be printed as stickers and plan to have these distributed on Tuesday. On Monday, they will distribute black armbands to citizens across the city asking them to join the protest.
“The government is doing everything possible to muffle voices raised against them — from reducing number of SMSes, to blocking twitter accounts and now arresting Trivedi,” IAC’s Mayank Gandhi said.
Joining in the black band protest will be the Oshiwara Lokhandwala Citizens Association and the Gulmohar Residents Association in Juhu, both of which Ashoke Pandit is associated with. “The government has sent out a clear signal with his arrest that if you do or say anything anything against us, you will be gagged. It is a shame,” Pandit said.
Shyama Kulkarni of AGNI too announced that they would take part in the protest. “In India, freedom of expression is provided in our constitution. A cartoonist has some more liberty on that front,” she said.
One of Trivedi’s controversial cartoons shows a dog, resembling Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Qasab, peeing on the Indian constitution. Another one has the national emblem, but with wolves’ heads instead of lions. A third shows the Indian parliament shaped like a toilet, and another is a depiction of Mother India being molested by politicians.
Trivedi has been charged with sedition under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, a non-bailable offence, and also under the IT Act and the 1971 National Emblem Act.
Senior Advocate Amit Desai said he didn’t think the case merited application of charges of sedition.
“While being a cartoonist gives him some license to make a comment, the cartoon for which he has been apparently arrested certainly seems to be offensive. Yet, I don’t think this case merits application of sedition charges and it could have been dealt with other sections in the IPC, apart from the IT Act. Sedition is a very serious charge, something which is not levied on a daily basis,” he said.
Alok Tripathi, a friend and fellow activist, told Mumbai Mirror that the cops had not only blocked Trivedi’s website a few months ago, but also visited his ancestral home in Kanpur and took his father to the local police station for questioning.
“After his website was blocked, Aseem has been fighting for his right of freedom of speech on the net through the Save your Voice campaign which is against censorship of freedom on the internet,” Tripathi said.
“On August 30, a Mumbai police team reached at Aseem’s Kanpur home and took his father for questioning, and told him a non-bailable warrant had been issued for his son. As soon as Aseem heard about this, he decided to head back to Mumbai and head to the police station,” he added.
“In court, Aseem did not say a word to defend himself. It’s probably his way of protesting against the system,” one of the India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers who was present during the hearing said.
ABOUT ASEEM TRIVEDI
Born and raised in Kanpur, Aseem Trivedi turned to political cartooning after completing a BA from Kanpur University. He joined Anna Hazare’s movement in 2011. He shared the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award (2012) with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who is on the Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people.
SHOWS GOVT’S INSECURITIES
We have always stood for fights for freedom of expression. Anyone saying anything against corruption is being tagged as a anti-national here. It is unfair.
PREETI SHARMA MENON IAC volunteer
His cartoons seem to be more like an expression of anger. However, arresting a cartoonist under charges of sedition for his work shows the high-handedness of the government and its insecurities.
HEMANT MORPARIA cartoonist
Mocking some ministers by creating funny cartoons does not amount to sedition. It is too serious an allegation. If he has disrespected the national flag, there is a seperate law he can be tried under.
PRADEEP PASBOLA senior counsel
Aseem Trivedi outside Bandra court on Sunday
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