Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist for prominent anti-internet censorship and anti-corruption groups, was arrested on charges of “sedition” for his caricatures of various government institutions in India. The arrest comes on top of a ham-handed but chilling crackdown on social media and freedom of expression in India in the weeks following violence between tribals and Muslims in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
The charges of “sedition” in theory carry quite a high penalty if someone is convicted. But when you hear the charges against Trivedi, you have to wonder what the fuss is all about. In fact, I’d argue that his arrest will do more damage to India’s institutions than his cartoons. Just have a read of what C. Bhosale, senior inspector of police had to say as to why he was arrested:
“The cartoons by Trivedi depicted Parliament as a commode and showed the national emblem with wolves instead of lions. The cartoons were obviously aimed at creating unrest in the society.”
It’s not obvious to me at all. In fact, just judge for yourself as to whether the cartoonist or the Indian parliament has been more of a problem for India:
The current Lok Sabha, which [Devika Malik, an analyst at PRS Legislative Research] said is on a path to becoming the least productive in the country’s history, has passed an average of 40 bills a year since its members were elected in 2009. By comparison, the first Lok Sabha passed an average of 72 bills each year.
Seems to me that a cartoonist highlighting the mockery of government institutions by the people in power and the main opposition party is exactly what India needs more of.