Aseem Trivedi, "National Toilet"

Aseem Trivedi, “National Toilet” (all cartoons via

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.

Aseem Trivedi

Aseem Trivedi (image via Wikipedia)

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.”

Aseem Trivedi, "Gang Rape of Mother India"

Aseem Trivedi, “Gang Rape of Mother India”

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.”

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

One reply on “India Arrests Political Cartoonist for Sedition”

  1. A detail! Keep in mind that the reason you didn’t find his cartoons ‘subtle’ is because of a major cultural (and political) difference between the US and India. Don’t get me wrong but there is a vast gap in the ways American and Indian corruption takes place in each country respectively. There is also a vast gap in the way ‘subtlety’ is perceived in each country, which has to do with factors like education. You should know that the crowd that this guy attempts to move and/or ‘enlighten’ in his ways is not as educated as the American audience to which Grosz and Crumb are communicating their own message. Not because their brains are of less capacity or something, but because of the very system (social/economic/political) which ‘feeds’ them and offers them their education (what Trivedi essentially wants to improve through his cartoons)… Personally, I found the mention of the comparison between Trivedi and ‘big cartoonists like George Grosz and Robert Crumb’ a bit out of place by your part. Other than that, I am satisfied with the article. Living in Greece right now, where the political situation is corrupt (!) political cartoons are a good ‘escape’ from sad reality. Not long ago I was asked to translate a really good cartoon for someone who doesn’t speak Greek and I found it really difficult. I found that being acquainted to the topics touched on by a political cartoon is not enough, there’s still more to the style or humor of the cartoon that can’t be passed on to a non native speaker for this or that reason. Cheers 🙂

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