Is it just me, or do a lot of governments seem to be cracking down on artists these days? The latest country to join the club is India, where a political cartoonist was recently imprisoned for his satirical drawings lampooning government and elite corruption.
Assem Trivedi, a 25-year-old cartoonist, was arrested two weeks ago on charges of sedition, under the country’s Information Technology Act and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act. (How glad are you that doesn’t exist in the US?) He was offered bail but originally refused it, only agreeing once the sedition charges against him were dropped, the Times of India reports.
At issue are Trivedi’s Cartoons Against Corruption, a series of political cartoons aimed at exposing and making fun of the widespread corruption among India’s ruling elite. Trivedi’s website hosting the cartoons was abruptly shut down by the government last December, but he quickly moved them over to a blogpost site.
The cartoons are — well, not the most subtle, and stylistically simple: one, for instance, shows the “Gang Rape of Mother India,” with a woman who symbolizes the country being held in place by a politician and bureaucrat (spelled “buerocrat”) while the devil of corruption prepares to rape her. In another, the Parliament building becomes a national toilet bowl. As one writer has said, the cartoons “lack the trenchant wit of great cartoonists like George Grosz and Robert Crumb.”
Still, imprisoning Trivedi for them is obviously ridiculous, and many in India seemed to agree. He was greeted by large crowds of supporters upon his release, CNN-IBN reports, and proceeded to vow that he would keep drawing cartoons, which would “spew more venom.” According to the Hindustan Times, though, the original charges against him may not be dropped so easily, and Trivedi could face another arrest. The paper quotes Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant as ominously saying, “We think Trivedi has disrespected the nation and must be punished.”