Aseem Trivedi: Cartoonist turned crusader

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He is young and speaks his mind. Perhaps that is why authorities could not bear the honesty with which he depicted the current state of India's political mess through his cartoons. Kanpur-based award winning cartoonist and India Against Corruption activist, Trivedi, was arrested by Mumbai Police on charges of sedition on Saturday, Sept 8.

Is Aseem Trivedi a hero?

The 25-year-old was arrested on charges of posting 'ugly and obscene' content on his web portal. Aseem has been charged with sedition for insulting national symbols in his cartoons.

What is sedition?

Sedition is conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch. Sedition is the stirring up of rebellion against the government in power. Sedition is encouraging one's fellow citizens to rebel against their state.

Fight against sedition

Trivedi got bail on Wednesday and now he has taken upon the cudgel to fight against sedition. He feels it's a draconian law, a legacy of British era, and needs to be repealed immediately.

"The agitation against sedition will continue till Section 124A is repealed. This fight was not limited to my release. It is for all those people charged under this Section," said the cartoonist, after his release.

Many have also questioned the government's decision to slap serious charges like sedition against Aseem for merely drawing cartoons.

Mass Support for Aseem

Aseem's arrest evoked a lot of anger among Indians belonging to various sections of the society. Artistes and like-minded people strongly felt that Aseem's arrest was politically motivated as Congress-led UPA government wanted to silence any voice of protest against corruption.

The government is currently facing a lot of flak as it is knee-deep in various scams.

When Aseem emerged from the Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai where he was lodged, hundreds of people welcomed his release and celebrated his freedom by showering him with flowers.

The gathered masses, mostly members of India Against Corruption (IAC) gave Aseem a hero's welcome. They waved flags, raised patriotic slogans and cheered his release, expressing their unilateral support for the young cartoonist.

Aseem is not alone in his battle. He has garnered mass support as both young and elderly people have expressed their solidarity with Aseem in various social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

Artist and Activist

Aseem is adamant to fight against abolition of sedition law.

"The fight will now be stronger. The aim of the law was to suppress Indian revolutionaries. Gandhiji was against the law, which curbed the freedom of Indians. Nehru wanted this law to be done away with. Gandhiji, [Balgangadhar] Tilak, [Veer] Savarkar, all were slapped with sedition. Were they all anti-nationals?" questioned Aseem.

Aseem who was charged with insulting the national honour and pride through his cartoons denied committing any mistakes.

"I don't think I have made any mistake. I have in no way insulted the national honour," he said.

"When wads of currency are waved inside Parliament, scams worth crores of rupees are carried out, when parliamentarians watch blue films in the House and then you decide who is insulting the national symbols. Why are you asking me?" he questioned.

He is adamant in using his art works to bring to light corrupt and mal-practices of the politicians, prevalent in the country. In fact, he has challenged the government and Mumbai Police, and promised to draw more critical cartoons targetting the high-handedness of the authorities.

Several of his cartoons, including the one showing 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab urinating on the Constitution was seen by the authorities as an insult to the country.

Binayak Sen supports Aseem

Along with art fraternity, media houses, civil rights groups and activists, including Binayak Sen, who was also charged with sedition earlier expressed their support for Aseem. They all are demanding repeal of sedition law.

Civil rights activist Sen was found guilty of sedition by a Raipur court for helping the Maoists in their fight against the state, in 2010.

"Our common cause is fighting against the law of sedition. I am of the belief that the law is a hindrance to the achievement of democracy in our country. Therefore, we want the Act repealed," said Sen.

"Sedition law is being consciously misused across the country. In various parts, many are languishing in prisons. It is mind-boggling that the government can do something to that magnitude for suppressing the dissenting voices of people," added Sen.

The rights activist had asked citizens of the country to join the cause of sending a petition to Parliament, with one million signatures seeking the abolition of the Act.

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