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Democracy arrested in India: Aseem Trivedi continues his struggle against censorship

January 12, 2012

We continue to report on the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, whose website of political cartoons against corruption in India was recently banned by Mumbai Police, responding to a claim that the content was “defamatory and derogatory.” You can read the details of the case here. Recently, Trivedi was also charged with treason in the Beed District Court, Maharashtra. This is his most statement reflecting on the case, reaffirming his commitment to the struggle for freedom of expression:

I am a Cartoonist and I initiated a battle against corruption by expressing the reality of the present scenario of our nation through my cartoons focusing politics and corruption. I started a campaign against corruption through my website Cartoons Against Corruption and during Anna Hazare’s campaign of India Against Corruption in Mumbai, I displayed my cartoons in public to support the movement. On the very first day of Anna’s fast, the Mumbai Police Crime Branch put a ban on my website after receiving a complaint.

Even after the ban, I continued my battle and shifted the content to a new website . But recently, some blind folded people who can’t understand the objective of my cartoons have filed a case against me, claiming that I am traitor against the nation – the case was filled in the  Beed District Court, Maharashtra.

This is not the first instance when freedom of speech and expression has been brutally murdered under the boots of politicians and some bureaucrats who believe in ‘gain through others’ pain’. Instead of looking upon the seriousness of the issue – why an artist would be provoked to make such cartoons in the first place – these self -centered people try to make their name by unnecessarily heating up the issue in the name of “national disrespect.”

There are several examples of cartoonists who have been taken under custody for expressing their unbiased views. Mohammad al-Amin, a Libyan cartoonist went missing after he expressed his views against Muammar Qaddafi. Ahmed Kishore, the Cartoonist Rights Network (CRN) representative waged a campaign against ‘Eve Teasing’ through his cartoons – and he along with his wife was attacked by a group of thugs who were backed by some political powers. Political Cartoonist, ‘Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque faced a ban on two of his books, ‘Funny Malasia’ and ‘Perak Darul Cartoon’. These are just some examples of how the democracy and freedom of speech has been put on halt in India and worldwide. But where is the end? Is it humanitarian to take an artist under the custody for expressing his/her views? Is it justified to ban art or expression?

Apart from a certain section of populace who are expressing their rage on my cartoons, there are some people who understand the motive of my art and are supporting the cause.

Arvind Gaud, a core member of team Anna [Hazare movement] has raised his voice supporting the objectivity of my cartoons. He says, “I have minutely observed the cartoons made by Aseem Trivedi who has raised a voice against corruption through this medium of Art. He has not tried to make a fun of the constitution or nation rather he has very perfectly tried to show the anger and the rage of the common people of India who are dying because of the unrestricted corruption in the nation. According to me, putting a ban on Aseem’s cartoons is not only a ban on his cartoons rather it is a restriction on media and social networking sites on their working”. Read more here.

Swami Agnivesh has also raised his voice in support of my cartoons and questioning the ban on my cartoons. “At first instance banning his website and secondly claiming him as a traitor and filling a case against him in the court of law, shows that even our judiciary is also not serious in classifying the issues which are worthy to be discussed in the court or not. I will support Mr. Aseem Trivedi in his cause till the end. I will fight for the ban on the freedom of expression.” Read the entire statement here. 

Other media platforms have covered the case of the banning of my cartoons: The Free Press Journal, The Wall Street Journal/India, Times of India, X-Index, The Indian Express [in English] and others.[in Hindi]

Following are the links to my Facebook page, Cartoons Against Corruption and Cartoonist Aseem, through which you can keep updated.

I understand that this is just the beginning of my struggle. I hope that you would take out the black folds from your eyes and will consider the issue without any bias or prejudice.

Thank you
Aseem Trivedi

January 12, 2011

UPDATE: Times of India reports (January 13, 2012)

A night at MMRDA ground, December 2011, in Mumbai, Maharashtra / Courtesy of Aseem Trivedi

A petition has been filed in the High Court seeking directions to asking state to file a criminal complaint against Anna Hazare for insulting the national honour by displaying cartoons and pictures during his fast campaign in Mumbailast month. The petition states is filed by a law graduate and businessman, Krishjeet Gaikwad, who said while Hazare sat on fast on December 27, 2011 at the MMRDA ground at Bandra-Kurla Complex , an exhibition was also on display.

His petition stated that cartoons and pictures which put up were such that they “hurt national honour and sentiments of people at large” were put up. He has urged direction for a probe and also sought similar direction against Anna’s associates Aseem TrivediKiran BediArvind Kejriwaland organisers India Against Corruption.

The matter did not reach hearing.

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