Amidst the sound of slogans like Inquilab Zindabad and Bharat Mata ki Jai, Aseem Trivedi was released from the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, on the 12th of September, immediately after which, he went to the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Shrine to offer his prayers. In the press conference following the same, he addressed the disadvantages of the section 124A. He said that this was the worst thing at the time when India was under British and is still the same for the several social activists, journalists and people trying to criticize the government for its flaws. He affirmed that Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru too went to jail on sedition charges, it was not that they were not patriotic, but they were suppressed so that they could not raise their voices.
Aseem Trivedi, a person whose profession and passion is to make India a better place to live in, was charged with sedition. The cartoonist was sent to jail on Monday for two weeks by the Mumbai Court. He did not apply for bail until the sedition charge was removed. The Kanpur-based artist had previously been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during an anti-corruption rally organized by the crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai, last year and posting the same on his website. He was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a member of Republican Party of India, Mr Amit Katarnayea. However, Aseem Trivedi is proud of what he did and asserts that would do it repeatedly.
The arrest sparked condemnation by some political parties and activists, the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said that though the Constitution ensures freedom of expression it also lays down that every citizen must respect the national symbols. The Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari also said the same words and advocated “reasonable restrictions” to freedom of speech. Calling the arrest of Trivedi a “serious criminal offence“, the Chairman of Press Council of India, Markandey Katju said those politicians and police officials behind this should be arrested because arresting an innocent person is a crime.
The Bharatiya Janata Party criticized the UPA government saying that it had already been involved in corruption for instance, the coal allocation scam and now has taken to attacking democratic institutions and free speech. Prashant Bhushan, an eminent lawyer and an IAC member, said that the sedition charge must not be misused but is sadly constantly being misused by the government and that it should only be used only if someone incites violence. Arvind Kejriwal, an anti-graft activist and also an IAC member said that the way the cartoons were depicted were indeed very wrong but this does not make for a case of sedition.
In his home town Kanpur, supporters and family members of Trivedi protested outside the residence of the Coal Minister, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, who assured them that he would provide every possible help to the cartoonist. Aseem’s father Ashok claimed that his son was innocent and that it was an irony that he had been arrested on charges of sedition when his grandfather, Reva Shankar Trivedi had been a freedom fighter and had gone behind bars for India’s freedom struggle.
The charge thus erases the line between freedom of speech and sedition. The Government is itself responsible for what has happened, had not it done anything wrong, the sketch would have not been created in the first place. Instead of accusing people like Aseem, the government must try to improve itself. The topic of discussion in Parliament should not be on how they should stop those people who blame the government, but to improve the existing conditions. It is ironical to hear from the government that these people disrespect the national symbols and culture when the government itself repeatedly does what is against the nation’s development.
In this era of social connectivity, everyone is a writer and thus, fighting for the truth is not merely a job of the journalists. The government absolutely cannot afford to accuse every other person for the criticism. Mr Trivedi’s sketch may have been controversial and not technically correct, but it is evident that what he did was only to bring about a reform in the system. But then what about those government officials who bring shame to the country by leaving no opportunity to disrespect the existing democracy? I urge you to think about it.
This article has been published in Youth ki awaaz.
© Harsh Choudhary