Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on sedition charges stemming from his cartoons, which criticize and expose corruption in India’s government. His arrest sparked protests from supporters, leading the government to promise a review of the charges against Trivedi. Though bail was granted, Trivedi refused to leave jail until the charges were dropped.
Mumbai Police arrested Trivedi last Saturday on charges including sedition for insulting national emblems. He was placed in judicial custody until September 24. Lawyer Sanskar Marathe filed a petition with the court arguing that Trivedi should be released because the sedition charges against him were illegal. The court granted bail on Tuesday, but Trivedi refused unless the sedition charges were dropped.
Many of Trivedi’s supporters spoke out against his arrest. In their statement condemning his arrest and calling for his release, the Communist party of India said:
“His sin is that he sketched cartoons against corruption. Exposing corruption is sedition in the eyes of the law in our country. It is a shame.”
Reporters Without Borders called the arrest a “gross violation of freedom of expression and information by the Indian authorities.” Trivedi was released from jail on Wednesday after R.R. Patil, Home Minister of the Maharashtra state, vowed to withdraw the sedition charge against him.
Trivedi, along with Syrian artist Ali Ferzat, was selected to receive the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International. He was chosen for the honor because of his cartoons exposing corruption in the Indian government and his dedication to India’s growing free speech movement. After his release, Trivedi affirmed his commitment to the fight for free speech in India, saying that as a “mirror of society,” art needs to play a larger role. “The better you want to be, the more you want to progress, the bigger your mirror should be. You will have to enlarge the mirror of society.”
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Soyini A. Hamit is a comic fan, a writer, and a 2015 J.D. candidate at Phoenix School of Law. You can follow her fascination with language and music at soyinianika.com.