Cartoonist Jailed by Congress Govt in Maharashtra

Maharashtra Government  drags its feet over Aseem sedition charge

Sanjeev Shivadekar TNN

Mumbai: Nearly a week after its announcement to seek legal opinion on whether sedition charges should be maintained or withdrawn against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, the home department is yet to forward a formal proposal to the law department.

      According to senior Mantralaya official, the law and judiciary department till Saturday had not received any formal communication from the home department on the Trivedi row. “Our department does not give verbal opinion. We give opinion only when we receive any proposal from the government,” a senior official attached to law and judiciary department said.

      “In such a crucial matter too, the government has not moved a proposal within a week. This shows how government’s approach is in on the entire Trivedi issue,” the official added.

     Following the controversy over the cartoons drawn by Trivedi and the police slapping sedition charges against him, state home minister R R Patil on September 11 stated that his department is reviewing the case and legal opinion from the law and judiciary department is being sought.

        When asked about the law and judiciary department’s opinion on the controversy, the official said, “We have not received the file asking for legal opinion, hence it would not be appropriate to comment on the issue. If the proposal comes to the department, then one will have to see the intention of individual for his/her involvement in the “crime”.”

      He added, “In this case it seems that Aseem was expressing his anger against corruption through cartoons and had no intention to wage a war against the country. Taking all this into consideration it would not be appropriate to frame sedition charges against him.”

      Patil had ordered a probe against the official who registered FIR (sedition charges) against the cartoonist.HC slams ‘frivolous’ Aseem arrest

Rosy Sequeira TNN

Mumbai: “We live in a free society,’’ reminded the Bombay high court on Friday even as it lambasted the state for “arbitrary’’ and “frivolous” arrest of political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for sedition under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 124A.
The court said, “Parameters need to be laid down for application of sedition, otherwise there will be serious encroachment of a person’s liberty guaranteed to him in a civil society.”
“Today you attacked a cartoonist. Tomorrow it could be a filmmaker and then a screenplay writer. We are living in a free society. Everybody has freedom of speech and expression,” said a division bench of Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud and Justice Amjad Sayed. The court was hearing a public interest litigation urging the court to declare Trivedi’s arrest as illegal and bad in law. On September 11, 2012, the high court directed the release of Trivedi on a personal bond.
When the matter came up for hearing, additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik objected to the “maintainability” of the PIL. Justice Chandrachud snapped, “Don’t take such frivolous objections. First you arrested him on such frivolous grounds. Stop these things. You have arrested a cartoonist on charges of sedition and breached his liberty to freedom of speech and expression.” He further said, “We have one Aseem Trivedi who is courageous enough to stand against this action. But what about several others whose voices are shut by the police?” said Justice Chandrachud.
The judges sought to know what the state has to say. “What is the state’s stand? Does the government intend to drop the charge? Someone has to take political responsibility for this. Why didn’t the police apply its mind before charging him with sedition?” asked Justice Chandrachud. Yagnik replied that he has to take instructions and added the assistant commissioner of police investigating the case is consulting Mantralaya to ascertain the maintainability of the sedition charge.
The judges pointed out that Section 124A (sedition) is a pre-Independence provision included in the statute books. “In that era, the government wanted protection from citizens. In the constitutional era, citizens need safeguards against the government,” said Justice Chandrachud. The judges said in foreign countries, the sedition charge is applied only if someone attempts to topple the government by using undemocratic means. Trivedi’s advocate Mihir Desai said, “In fact, in USA, there is a concept called ‘fighting words’, which says that unless there is a clear and present danger of violence because of the words, a person cannot be stopped from saying those.” The judges said from the arrest of Trivedi “ìt is prima facie evident that there is arbitrariness with which the matter was handled by the police”.
The judges directed Trivedi to be made a party in the PIL. “We shall file an affidavit substantiating why sedition charges cannot be levelled in such cases,” said Desai. Directing the state to file a comprehensive affidavit explaining reasons for applying the sedition charge against Trivedi, they posted the hearing to October 12, 2012.

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was recently arrested on charge of sedition under IPC’s Section 124A

CITY CITY BANG BANG

Overvaluing the symbolic

Santosh Desai

A cartoon that got its  maker locked up on charges of sedition. A crudely provocative film that has set off riots in several parts of the world; this coming on the back of a doctored video alleging atrocities in Assam that triggered another violent riot. Go back a few months and rewind to another cartoon that made a chief minister jail a professor. And another one about a revered Dalit figure, excavated after 60 years, that created a storm of protest.

      Something significant is afoot. A new touchiness seems to be visible across the world; lines are getting blurred between the symbolic and the real, the abstract intent and the concrete action. Take the instance of the anti-Islam video that has sparked such a violent reaction in parts of the Muslim world. It is an obscure, tacky production that does not carry the support of any identifiable religious or political group and its current prominence is almost entirely a product of the protests against it, a pattern that is a recurring one–— even the anti-corruption and Mamata Banerjee cartoons would have died in obscurity had it not been for the action taken against their makers. What explains this inclination to look for disrespect, and then to explode with anger upon finding it and attributing it falsely to one’s perceived enemies? Why is it that outbreaks of anger have much more to do with perceived representational infractions than substantive behaviour in the real world?
In the case of the anti-Islam video, it is difficult to understand what is the source of the outrage. Given that one of the functions of the internet is to enable lunatics to have their say in the medium and font of their choice, reacting to such a crude attempt at incitement by getting incited seems like a remarkably short-sighted reaction. Apart from the fact that it is technologically infeasible to do too much about such attempts, it is a invitation to every other fringe group to gain easy notoriety on the cheap. No religion or political formation can believe that it does not have its share of people who dislike it, and in some cases hate it with a venomous passion. The desire to eradicate the world of any sign of this hatred is a fantasy; what most groups settle for is to keep
reasonable boundaries that prevent the faithful from being involuntarily exposed to views that they would find offensive and insulting.
In an earlier world, it could be argued that the device of blasphemy and the consequences it invited had its uses. It cordoned off the touchy areas of our life by keeping adherents in check and creating well demarcated boundaries between one social group and another. Today the operating conditions have changed substantially. Due to the enormously inter-connected nature of our existence, whatever we feel about others is now easy to broadcast to everyone else at little cost, both material and otherwise. The ordered nature of social groups with a few ports of communication have dissolved in a cacophony of individual untamed voices. In such a situation, a device like blasphemy needs to be invoked with restraint, for it is in danger of expending itself otherwise.
There is another factor at work too. In an earlier world, important people and lofty ideas enjoyed a natural protection from too much intemperate criticism. One lived in a smaller, self-contained and largely homogenous world under a canopy of exaggerated respect. Truly public platforms were rare, and could in most cases be managed. For the important, the exposure to such volumes of vituperation is an unfamiliar and deeply disorienting experience. It is also why the current touchiness is shown most by groups that have enjoyed unchallenged power—the state, powerful leaders in all facets of public life and religious and quasi-religious groups. The desire seems to be to protect themselves by retreating into an enclave of guaranteed respect.
If we think about it, what Aseem Trivedi was really accused of was not sedition but blasphemy. In a lot of the cases, the reactions to criticism have followed the codes of blasphemy, rather than any other label that might have been used. In an ironical way, the role of religion is increasing in our life not only through its organized form, but also by way of treating other arenas of our life as if they were religion. When Mamata reacts to a cartoon, or a book is banned because it contains something unpalatable, it is not because these are threats to the public but because they are seen to be blasphemous in nature. The reason why cartoons feature in so many of the issues of the day is because they are by definition rooted in the notion of blasphemy—they make the lofty and sacred look ridiculous. The touchiness about things symbolic is a sign that more subjects are asking to be treated with reverence rather than real respect; the problem is not with a specific criticism but with the very idea of criticism.
Attempts to understand these reactions by invoking notions of taste and historical injustice are misguided, particularly given the new context in which we all operate. If we start legitimising extreme reactions to any and every provocation, a swift descent to medievalism seems unavoidable. On the other hand, It is also true that the easy circulation of such material, available in such volume, is not easy to adjust to. The volume and velocity of hate are going up dramatically while the capacity to handle the same has not grown significantly. The process of negotiating with the changed conditions is not going to be easy, but a retreat into the past is not an option. We will be living in a world with greater knowledge of who hates us and why, and reacting to every perceived slight with brute force will be an exercise in self-defeating futility.
santoshdesai1963@indiatimes.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: