Graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh casts a mirthful eye on what we might confront on our ultimate day on this planet exclusively for TOI-Crest
Graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh casts a mirthful eye on what we might confront on our ultimate day on this planet exclusively for TOI-Crest
PTI PHOTO/SANTOSH HIRLEKAR
Vijay V Singh, Rebecca Samervel & Swati Deshpande, TNN | Sep 10, 2012, 06.07AM IST
When the magistrate asked him about his advocate, he said he was not engaging one. The prosecutor informed the court that Trivedi had insulted the national emblem in a cartoon and displayed it during an Anna Hazare rally at the MMRDA ground and on his website. The court then gave the police Trivedi’s custody. The next hearing is on September 16.
Former judges, lawyers and civil rights activists have criticized the police for arresting the cartoonist. In particular, they have condemned the duration of his custody.
“This is a very rare instance of such a thing happening,” said activist and advocate Mihir Desai. Observing that the case was not maintainable, high court Justice (retd) H Suresh said, “The charge of sedition is patently misused. In this case, what is sedition? Moreover, custody of seven days is fundamentally wrong (in this case). What further investigations will be conducted while keeping him in custody ? The cartoons, which speak for themselves, are investigation enough.”
Former IPS officer and now lawyer Y P Singh said that as per a Supreme Court ruling, arrests need not be made in cases of a technical nature. “The action of the police, which may not be legally incorrect, has certainly been undesirable. The police have acted in an excessive manner by applying sedition charges. At best, a weak case could have been made under the Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act.
“Further, to arrest a person on a weekend and produce him in court on a Sunday is regarded as mischievous . That is because if a matter is regarded as serious, it needs to be deliberated on in a regular court and not a holiday court.”
Shyama Kulkarni, trustee, Agni, said, “In a democracy, how can somebody be gagged like this? Are we heading towards a dictatorial state or towards a state of emergency? Trivedi is an artist and has a right to express himself.”
Kulkarni drew a comparison to the recent arrest of a professor in West Bengal for forwarding a cartoon on the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “Will anyone among us be arrested if we criticize those in power? Instead of charging an innocent cartoonist, arrest those who are selling our country. The right people are not being arrested.”
Aseem Trivedi was born in 1987 in Kanpur Is a political cartoonist and activist Is 2012 recipient of ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’ of Virginia-based Cartoonists Rights Network International Started ‘Save Your Voice’ movement against internet censorship along with long-time friend Alok Dixit As freelance cartoonist, drew for newspapers and magazines Drew cartoons in support of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and put them up in own website, which was blocked by police. Cartoons were discussed in Rajya Sabha
Aseem Trivedi’s crime
Sedition by insulting national symbols through cartoons Works in question are themed Cartoons Against Corruption. One depicts national emblem as comprising wolves in place of lions and the slogan Bhrashtameva Jayate in place of Satyameva Jayate
Amit Katarnayea, legal advisor for a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization Wrote in police complaint in December 2011 that Trivedi put up banners mocking Indian constitution during Anna Hazare’s rally at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and uploaded obscene content on his website
Three charges, one draws life term
Section 124, Indian Penal Code |
Sedition. Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government, shall be punished with imprisonment for life
Section 66A, Information Technology Act |
Punishment for sending false or offensive messages through communication services for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will. Punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years
Section 2, Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act |
Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the national flag or the constitution of India or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years
Kanpur-based , why did he surrender in mum?
Complaint against Aseem Trivedi was filed at BKC police station In August, BKC police team went to Kanpur to look for him and questioned his father on the 30th of the month Trivedi later tried to contact team, but failed He arrived in Mumbai on Saturday and went to BKC police station to inquire about the case. There he surrendered
Apparently, in India, it is criminal to depict the state for what it is: a monster that is sucking up the blood of the people of India.
I myself had depicted this in 1975:
In my view (depicted in this picture) Indira Gandhi had disemboweled the poor even as she pretended to care for them. I was 15 years old when I made this. Seditionist? No. I had a strong sense of integrity even then, and strongly cared for India. To care for your nation is NOT sedition.
Apparently Trivedi has shown disrespect to national symbols. But what about those who LOOT the country? Are they showing respect merely because they are escorted by Z level security?
What is more important: symbols or reality?
In my view the government of India is showing the GREATEST disrespect to national symbols. Trivedi has got it right. The socialists have racked India and made tens of private mansions for each of themselves in the name of the poor. They have destroyed truth. They have destroyed liberty.
Trivedi’s website has already been shut down by the Indian government. Unfortunately, for the Indian government (and governments worldwide) the Pandora’s box of liberty – the internet – has been opened and no one can shut it down. Liberty will triumph.
In support of Aseem Trivedi, I’m re-publishing all his cartoons that I can find on the internet. If I’ve missed any please send them over.
I hope people like Shailesh will try to understand this – that democracy is NOT God. It is NOT a sufficient condition for the defence of liberty. It is a step towards that journey but that journey requires strong leaders to join politics and cut the ever-extending reach of the government. Only vigorous defence of liberty can save India’s democracy from degenerating into tyranny. Not PR. Let’s get the priorities right. We need leaders RIGHT NOW, to defeat the current government (and opposition!), and establish a new order based on liberty. Instead of idle debates, it is time for action.
DISCLAIMER: BY POSTING ASEEM’S CARTOONS I DO NOT MEAN TO EXPRESS ANY ENDORSEMENT OF HIS STYLE (WHICH IS VERY AGGRESSIVE). BUT I BELIEVE THIS WORK IS NOT SEDITIOUS. IT IS WELL WITHIN THE FREE RIGHT OF ANY POLITICAL CARTOONIST ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TO PRESENT THE POLITICAL SITUATION AS HE SEES IT. THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MUST GET USED TO THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES EVEN IN OFFENSIVE WAYS.
PHEROZE L. VINCENT
American political cartoonist Daryl Cagle talks about balancing passion with sensitivity
It came as a surprise to Indian cartoonists that their American counterparts are literally paid a penny for a laugh. “Editors are cheap. They subscribe to syndication for $15 a week. It works out to a dime per cartoon.”
Cagle, an editorial cartoonist for nbcnews.com is on a whirlwind tour of India organised by the US State Department speaking to students, artists and journalists about cartooning. Speaking to cartoonists in the capital yesterday, Cagle spoke about the changing trends in news cartooning.
There are about 70 regular cartoonists employed with publications in the US and 70-odd freelancers, said Cagle. “The space for editorial cartooning has decreased, as have newspaper circulation and revenue. Online polls on news portals suggest that cartoons of celebrities get the most hits. A cartoon on Janet Jackson’s boob slip is far more popular than something on Syria.”
Cagle, who runs a cartoon syndicate which has around 900 subscribers explained that American editors are partial towards cartoons that look like those of Jeffrey MacNelly, the three-time Pulitzer winning cartoonist. “I know a great cartoonist called Randall Enos who draws for my syndicate. Enos’ style is the linocut which looks very different from MacNelly. But editors are so used to MacNelly (who died in 2000) that they’ll only pick up stuff that looks like his work.”
But he added, that cartoons for a glocal audience are most likely to get picked up, especially for pay per use by a wide clientele. “Since there is a big pool to pick from, papers in the US do not compete with each other for exclusive cartoons.”
Most cartoonists at the recent chat at the American Center said that not only was the financial situation of Indian cartoonists bad, but they have to also face threats and even prosecution if their work offends communal sentiments or portrays state symbols or the judiciary in poor light.
Cagle has been publicising the case of Kanpur cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who faces charges of insulting national symbols for publishing a series of cartoons against corruption. His cartoons portray the Sarnath capital as a pack of bloodthirsty hounds, the parliament as a toilet and the imminent gang rape of Mother India. Cagle has himself drawn the US Capitol building as a toilet.
“Usually protests against cartoons in the US do not happen naturally. It’s usually an organised group that arranges it. I can understand sensitivities on religion but the State cannot be taboo for cartoonists,” he said.
A visit to Cagle’s website or blog, is like a breath of fresh air to an Indian reader, as he takes on senior politicians and pokes fun at national institutions – holding them to account in a way that Indian publications cannot.
“In the US, public figures cannot sue you for cartoons. We have ethical guidelines at the NBC. Like, we cannot receive gifts from characters we draw, we cannot contribute to political campaigns and we certainly cannot give wrong information. You cannot draw private individuals, like an ex-wife. But the government does not tell us what is offensive,” he explained.
“Cartoons are part of reasonable democratic debate. It’s sad to have the question put at you on whether your cartoon could create a riot. That’s just not a reasonable thing to do,” he added.
Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, this year’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award winner (along with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat) plans on turning himself over to the police in Mumbai in the next couple of days over controversial cartoons he posted on his web site that parody India’s national symbols.
Trivedi was charged in January with treason and insulting India’s national symbols, and if found guilty, he could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 rupees (about $100).
In the cartoon below, Trivedi took India’s national emblem of the Four Sarnath Lions of King Asoka that sit above the motto “Satyamev Jayate” (truth alone shall triumph) and re-drew them as bloodthirsty wolves on the re-worded motto “Bhrashtamev Jayate” (long live corruption):
In another offending cartoon, Trivedi drew the Indian parliament building as a toilet:
There is a long tradition of editorial cartoonists using symbols of states to express opinions about governments. Drawing a legislature or parliament building as a toilet is common. I recently drew our Capitol building in Washington as a toilet:
The offending cartoon below by Trivedi shows the “Mother of India” being held down by politicians and bureaucrats, about to be raped by corruption:
The Indian Constitution allows for “the right to freedom of speech and expression.” Trivedi’s critics argue that while he is allowed to mock and poke fun at politicans, it is a crime to mock the national emblem, the parliament and the Indian flag.
“I am democratic. I am patriotic. I have a twenty-four year life without any charges of corruption. I am only making cartoons. … I am talking about nationalism. I love my country. I am reacting [to the corruption] in my own way. Someone is protesting. Somebody is a doing hunger strike in India. [As for me,] I am a cartoonist.”
There is a lot of sensitivity in India about cartoons that offend religious sensitivities, but cartoons that bash the state must be fair game. I would argue that editorial cartoonists must disrespect governments and symbols of governments as a professional obligation.
The uproar over what is being referred to as the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ in the class XI textbook prepared by NCERT first began over a month ago, that is to say, almost six years after the books have been in circulation, been taught and received high praise for their lively style and a critical pedagogical approach (more on this below). It was a political party – one of the factions of the Republican Party of India – that decided to kick up a ruckus over ‘the issue’ – that is, the ‘affront’ to Dr Ambedkar that the cartoon in question supposedly constitutes, and the resultant ‘hurt sentiments’ that it has caused. Very soon everyone began to fall in line, and practically every member of our august Parliament was vying with one other to prove that they were indeed more hurt than their colleagues. One of them, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan has even demanded that the NCERT itself should be dissolved!
Good old Jurgen Habermas – and good old Habermasians - have always invested a lot in forums like the parliament, that are to them the hallowed institutions of ‘rational-critical discourse’ where through reasoned argument people convince each other. That is how the voice of Reason ultimately prevails in democracies. I have always been suspicious of this claim and have thought that Habermas’ empirical work on the decline (‘structural transformation’) of the public sphere was more insightful than his normative fantasies. Long long ago, his empirical work on the transformation of the public sphere showed that it was the rise of political parties that had actually destroyed all possibilities of ‘rational-critical discourse’, where organized passion in the service of immediate political interests carried the day.
But believe it or not, the text book and the cartoon that is now in the eye of the storm, isnormatively speaking a Habermasian tract. In other words, it invests too much in this fantasy of rational communication. The text below the cartoon (reproduced above) says:
” Cartoonist’s impression of the snail’s pace with which the Constitution was made. Making of the constitution took almost three years . Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact? Why do you think the Constituent Assembly took so long to make the Constitution?”And much as I personally disagree with this romantic representation of what went on inside the Constituent Assembly, here is what the textbook it self has to say, perhaps as its own answer to the question posed in the text below the cartoon:..