Major political parties criticised the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, even as the government said that while it did not support censorship, citizens must respect national symbols.
The Bharatiya Janata Party asked why the government was opposing Mr. Trivedi’s cartoons – including the one depicting Parliament as a toilet – when it was responsible for the washout of the monsoon session. “If a cartoonist makes a cartoon on the lowering of the dignity of Parliament due to this, then the government has an objection to it and a case is filed against him. You are in power, that does not mean you impose an undeclared emergency in the country,” said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain. He wondered how a cartoonist exercising his right to freedom of speech by expressing his views could become a threat to national security.
Exposing corruption is sedition: CPI
The Communist Party of India condemned the “unjustifiable wrongful arrest” of Mr. Trivedi and demanded his immediate release. “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,” said the CPI in a statement, also demanding action against those who “masterminded” the arrest.
The India Against Corruption team (IAC), which had used Mr. Trivedi’s cartoons for their posters, also lashed out at the arrest. Noting that the cartoonist was being tried for insulting the national emblem, Arvind Kejriwal asked whether it was not a greater insult when ministers wrote letters seeking coal blocks allocation with the national emblem on their letterheads.
The IAC claimed that the “baseless charge of sedition” against Mr. Trivedi was “blatantly illegal and portrays the sign of a paranoid state…His harassment smacks of vendetta against the anti-corruption movement.”
The Congress’ criticism was expectedly milder. “I have no hesitation in saying that the arrest is a bit too far over-stretched,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, pointing out that a society which cannot laugh at itself is at risk of atrophy. ‘
“Over-reaction is certainly not called for...We are not in favour of arrest,” he added. However, he said national emblems and symbols have to be respected by all citizens.
We have to follow ground rules: Ambika
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni reiterated that point in her response to queries on Mr. Trivedi’s arrest. “There are certain ground rules which we all have to follow. When the Constitution ensures freedom of expression to each one of us, it also lays down that we, as Indian citizens, respect all national symbols which represent the Indian nation. We have to bring our right to expression, right to creativity and our respect for national symbols in a harmonious way,” she said.
However, she made it clear that the government was not advocating censorship. “The UPA government is not for censorship but for self-regulation and in the last three years, as an I&B minister, I have promoted self-regulation at every step,” she said.