Not a hero amongst fellow funnymen

Last Updated 17 September 2012, 16:13 IST

In the past one year India has witnessed many campaigns against corrupt politicians and government. Anna Hazare took to streets with the help of his team members and thus evolved as the crusader against corruption.

Taking his legacy forward was Aseem Trivedi, a little known Kanpur-based cartoonist who suddenly became the face for ‘fight-for-freedom-of-expression.’

The 25-year-old grabbed headlines after he was charged and arrested for sedition under 124A Act for making cartoons that mocked the Indian state and its national symbols. Aseem who got influenced by Anna Hazare, started Cartoons Against Corruption to support the mass movement.

Though the cartoonist was released on bail, he has ignited a lot of debate against Constitutional Right of Expression and the implementation of the much-talked-about country’s controversial sedition law. Although, cartoons are an integral part of expression, this time Aseem seemed to have crossed that thin line between expression and crudeness.

Fellow cartoonists have condemned the act by Aseem and termed it as ‘bad’ and ‘crude’. Talking to Metrolife, the well-known caricaturist Sudhir Tailang, a Padmashri awardee termed Aseem’s cartoons in bad taste but also blamed the government for being intolerant.

“In the recent past we have seen that the govenment is in a mood to muzzle cartoons. In India the political class is very intolerant. So, cartoons are the new target by the government to divert the attention.

“Although his cartoons were crude they were not worth booking under sedition. It was a very thin-skinned behaviour by the government. We are the largest democracy in the world but acted in such a juvenille fashion by arresting him under this law.

He misus­ed Freedom of Expression but by arresting him the govenment has made him a hero and now people know about the cartoons which otherwise would not have been the case.”

Aseem, on his part, challenged the governement after bail and asked many questions including the manner in which the government functions. But he was far from getting support from his own fraternity. “His cartoons were an insult to India. He misused the Freedom of Expression. There is a limit for everything and he crossed it this time. One can even express his anger against the corrupt government without disrespecting the national emblem and Parliament.”

The UPA which is already reeling under scams reacted in an immature fashion by booking him under 124A, which was uncalled for.

Neeraj Gupta, another cartoonist also termed the arrest shameful. “Although I didn’t like the cartoons myself, the sedition charge was shameful. It was not needed. If we want to express our anger against the govenment, why can’t we leave the national symbols alone? He should have drawn a line, it is important for artists.”

Adding his views to the issue, Abhimanyu Sinha, principle illustrator in a national daily also blamed Aseem for crossing the line and insulting the Indian state. “Everybody shows their anger through write-ups, cartoons and blogs, but rarely cross the line. We all have a right to express our views, but it should be in the proper manner.”

(Published 17 September 2012, 16:13 IST)

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