September 10, 2012

Cartoonist hanged: Aseem's blog

Aseem Trivedi is a dear blogger from India who has been sent to jail for sedition as he has drawn cartoon lampooning Indian politicians and the political and bureaucratic systems as well as showing deep contempt towards institutions such as parliament and national symbols.

It is ironical that his cartoon 'Cartoonist hanged: India 2050' has proved so prophetic though he himself might escape gallows. He had thought that in India ruled by some despot in 2050 might think it proper to hang a cartoonist - and he must have thought it too a rare possibility, that's why it became the subject of cartoon - but little did he realise that the governments of federal India and its States in 2012 have somehow turned as intolerant as the rulers of erstwhile USSR. Their frustration with public criticism emanates from the proverbial pigeons [of mis-governance] that have come to roost. So go against CAG, even Supreme Court, political opposition, authors, cartoonists, civil society activists, protesters...

It is not a stray case where a cranky fellow complained against a cartoonist and the police arrested him and the judge found merit in jailing him. It is a deep-rooted malaise that is only growing. In talking of national security yesterday in the DGPs' conference, honorable PM talked of the danger from social media and suffixed it with a customary 'all social media is not bad' statement. A sensible statesman, however big the provocation, should have said that all freedom of speech and expression is fine, and suffixed it with 'there are some black-sheep'.

We have checked the blog of Aseem, [forgive us if the link goes off, if the blog is blocked] but find that though his extreme contempt for parliament et al may offend some, what he is depicting is irreverence within 'reasonable' limits. Take irreverence out of creative arts and they lose much of their worth. Sad that India is not only making a laughing stock of itself, it is losing creativity, humour, tolerance and all the good that comes out of sharp criticism.

Update of March 2015: 
The Bombay High Court has, after hearing a Public Interest Litigation in Aseem's case, held that citizens have the right to criticize the government as long as it does not incite violence or public disorder. The government, it said, cannot slap sedition charges on citizens for making fair criticism. The court did not find wit, humour or sarcasm in Aseem's cartoons but said, that was no reason for curtailing his freedom of speech and expression.