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Cong, NCP disagree on Trivedi’s arrest

The arrest of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi has divided the ruling alliance in Maharashtra. After the Mumbai Police arrested him on Sunday for showing disrespect to national symbols, the Congress called the arrest unnecessary. However, it maintained that Trivedi's cartoons were unacceptable. 

Calling the Mumbai Police's action a bit 'over-stretched' and 'not called for', the All India Congress Committee advocated for 'reasonable restrictions' on freedom of speech and called for respecting national emblems.

However, the Nationalist Congress Party [NCP] that holds the home portfolio in Maharashtra defended the police action against Trivedi and demanded an apology from him. Talking to reporters, the NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that Trivedi had been arrested for objectionable cartoons of the national emblem and Parliament. 'People are being misled to believe that he has been booked for supporting anti-corruption agitation against politicians and the government,' Malik claimed.

'Right to freedom of speech and expression does not give you a right to abuse. Trivedi's cartoons are not against political parties or government, but [they are] against the country,' the NCP spokesperson claimed.

The Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari disagreed and said that his party was trying to seek the release of the artist who has been charged with sedition.

'I have no hesitation in saying that the arrest is a bit too far over-stretched.... Over reaction is certainly not called for.... We are not in favour of the arrest,' Tewari told reporters in Dehli.

While noting that 'a society which fails to laugh at itself runs the risk of getting atrophied', he, at the same time, posed the question, 'Does freedom of speech mean doing everything is fair deal?'


KEJRIWAL AND COMPANY STAND UP FOR MUMBAI CARTOONIST

Supporting the arrested cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, India Against Corruption members have accused the government of using charges of sedition to muddle dissenting voices. They also supported Koodankulam protesters.

In a press conference, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav condemned the slapping of sedition charges against Trivedi and the police action against locals protesting against Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.

'IAC unequivocally condemns the arrest of Aseem Trivedi, a reputed political cartoonist by Mumbai police yesterday. IAC firmly stands for freedom of expression and expresses its anguish against a growing culture of intolerance for creative expression in the public domain,' Kejriwal said. He also said, 'The protest at Omkareswar dam is a justified demand of local farmers. The government should stop increasing the water level at the dam.'

Kejriwal said that Trivedi was not denigrating Parliament or national symbols but targeting those who were denigrating Parliament or the symbol. 'Mere use of a symbol in a cartoon does not mean he was disrespecting the national symbol,' he said.

Kejriwal condemned police action against the protestors at Koodankulam and asked authorities to desist from loading fuel rods in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. He also demanded from the authorities not to make the plant operational before implementing the safety measures recommended by the government's expert committee.

Kejriwal said that the IAC firmly stands for freedom of expression and expresses its anguish against a growing culture of intolerance for creative expression in the public domain. 'There can be two views about the content of some other cartoons put up by him on his website, or indeed about their appropriateness but these are matters to be judged by the public, and not by the police. In particular, the use of sedition law against Aseem Trivedi is blatantly illegal and portrays sign of a paranoid state that does not behove a mature democracy like India.

We note with regret that his is not an isolated case and of late there have been many instances across regions and regimes of harassment of cartoonists and other artists. His harassment smacks of vendetta against anti-corruption movement,' he said.

He said that 'Trivedi is a young talented and fearless cartoonist. Like many artists of his generation, he was happy to add his voice to public outcry against corruption. Some of his cartoons have been used by IAC.'

Bhushan said that 'A large number of locals in Koodankulam have been slapped with sedition cases. This shows the intolerant and fascist face of the government. The government is targeting people who are highlighting corruption.'

Bhushan said that the locals were protesting against the plant after witnessing the catastrophic accident in Japan's Fukushima last year.

He said that the plant is being built without safety measures recommended by government's own expert committee and by absolving the Russian company supplying the nuclear plant of all liability in case of an accident.
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